When you purchase a compact utility tractor for property maintenance, it often leads to the purchase of a mowing or cutting attachment. While a mid-mower deck is perfect for smaller properties that require management similar to a riding lawn mower; sizeable or diverse landscapes may need something a bit larger and more versatile. This leaves you with two options, a Grooming Mower or a Rotary Cutter. Depending on your property type, the length of the grass, and other projects you hope to manage, you may end up needing one over the other. Or possibly even both.
Grooming MowerA grooming mower (or finish mower) is designed to maintain turfgrass environments like lawns, athletic fields, golf courses or any other area with grass under eight inches in length. It has sharp blades that give tender turf grass a sharp cut and can range from 4 to 9 ft. in length. Currently, Papé Machinery carries fifteen different John Deere Frontier Equipment grooming mower models, varying in both working width and PTO HP (horsepower). They are all compatible with the John Deere 1-4 series compact utility tractors through the use of an iMatch 3-point hitch.
The grooming mower is designed to be a simple and consistent piece of machinery, that allows for clean lawn maintenance over a larger area. If utilized with an iMatch Quick Hitch, connecting the implement is as simple as connecting with the top hook, shutting down the tractor and locking down the two side levers. Then you simply connect the PTO input shaft from the mower to the tractor’s output shaft, allowing the tractor to power the implement. Once it’s fully attached, you’ll want to adjust the pitch of the mower from front to back using the top link adjustment on your tractor’s 3-point hitch. The front of the mower should be slightly lower than the rear to prevent grass cuttings from bunching up under the mower deck.
Finally, you can adjust the cutting height by adding or removing spacers on the caster wheel shafts. Inspecting the turf area ahead of hookup can assist in expediting this process and assuring the cutting length is exactly where you need it. Depending on the set height and with the rear discharge from the mower deck, the implement can also be used for mulching purposes when needed.
A rotary cutter (or bush hog) is designed to cut rough plant material, from thick pasture grass to tree saplings with trunks up to 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick. It offers an adjustable cutting height from 1½ to inches (4 – 23 cm). The material that is cut is left on the ground behind the cutter, and because it was pretty tall and rough to start with, it remains thick and rough-looking on the ground. Like the Grooming Mower, there are a large variety of options available that vary in both working width and PTO HP. Certain models are even designed with thicker steel and heavier drive components for specific work and landscape types.
Rotary cutters aren’t meant for refined maintenance, but instead, helps you take on terrain that’s covered in brush, weeds or tall grass that’s much rougher than it should be. The implement is ideal for controlling overgrowth and keeping the edges of your property clean and managed. When determining the right size cutter for your use case, it’s good to keep in mind the PTO HP of your tractor and the width between the outside edges of the rear tires. Ideally, you’ll want a rotary cutter with a working width at least as wide as the distance between the outside edge of the tires. This can help prevent any damage from driving over the material that the cutter isn’t reaching during a pass.
Typically the rotary cutter will require more care. Including having your local dealer regularly balance and sharpen the cutting blades to maintain the quality of the cut. It’s important to keep in mind that while the rotary cutter is a heavy-duty implement, it can still be damaged if the debris, brush or landscape is too rugged for the implements purpose. Mowing over a tree stump, large rocks, or letting the tractor wheel drive into a hole are just a few of the ways that you could damage the cutter if you’re unaware of the terrain. You’ll also want to check the radiator screen before cutting thicker vegetation to make sure it’s not clogged to avoid the engine overheating.
Grooming Mower Vs. Rotary CutterAs can be seen, the two mower option provide vastly different experiences that must be taken into account before purchasing. If you’re planning on cutting grass regularly and want to maintain a pristine groomed surface, the grooming mower would be the right choice. If you need to take on anything in your path, including thicker brush and small tree trunks (up to one inch in diameter), the rotary cutter will help you do that.
Depending on your land, you may find you need both attachments to keep your property maintained. If you find yourself consistently switching between the two implements, investing in an iMatch Quick-Hitch can help minimize the downtime and simplify the entire process. Additionally, the Quick-Hitch is compatible with a vast array of John Deere and Frontier Equipment rear implements. Meaning that if you choose to expand to additional attachments, there’s a good chance it will work with the hitch.
Still, have questions regarding which mower is right for you and your property? Check out our recent Toolkit video below where we explain and showcase the differences between the two mowers in action. As always, you can give us a call or stop into your nearest Papé Machinery Agriculture & Turf location to speak with our equipment experts about your specific requirements and use cases.