The feeding of surplus horses on a big 860 acre farm in southeastern Iowa cost Jim Brockway, of Louisa county, several hundred dollars a year. In order to get thru with his spring work, he had to keep from 12 to 16 more horses than he really needed during the rest of the year. He either had to keep them thruout the year, or go out and buy horses during the rush seasons. The latter plan was not satisfactory, so he usually carried along as many as he would need in the busy times. During the last five years, the problem has been solved by the use of tractors, which now do most of the heavy work.

Mr. Brockway has used both the heavy and the light tractors, and on his large farm he would not try to get along without either. His experience traces back to five years ago, when he first bought one of the large types. While he is not using the original tractor, which soon wore out, he now has a large one, and also a small outfit for doing work for which the heavy one is not adapted.

Jim Brockway with his tractor

Experience with the first purchase was far from satisfactory. That tractor,

 he says, might have been adapted for certain kinds of work, but it had no place on the farm. The gears and working parts had no protection from the dust and dirt which the oil collected. Sometimes in the summer, when the soil was dry, there would be a regular blinding cloud of dust. The grit that accumulated in the gears caused so much wear and tear that the period of usefulness of the tractor was limited to two years. In fact, he had to discard it before the second year’s work was done and finish up with horses.

When Mr. Brockway bought his second big tractor, he tried to get one which would not be subject to so much wear and tear from the dirt. The tractor has it’s engine and gears protected by a hood which is dirtproof. The gears while working are bathed in oil, and in two years he says there has been practically no depreciation. Repairs during this period have cost but little, and if he were to exchange it for a new tractor of the same make , he says he would think twice before offering a $50 premium in favor of a new machine.

A large tractor costs two or three times as much as the small type. Repair bills are much more, they use more fuel and oil, and the expense of operating them is proportionately more. While in service a big tractor accomplishes two or three times as much work to offset the added expense. There is a certain amount of work, even on a farm the size of Mr. Brockway’s that can be done just as effectually with a small tractor. In work such as drilling the small tractor fills the bill, and it results in a considerable saving on the more expensive tractor.

James Brockway on his 1917 Avery Tractor                             

About the only objection Mr. Brockway has to the small tractor is that it does not work quite fast enough to suit him. Naturally, it cannot pull so many plows, nor disk so wide a strip at one time. Instead of plowing 30 acres a day, the small tractor makes a record of 10 acres. For the quarter-section farm, or anything under a section, Mr. Brockway believes the small tractor will be preferable to a large one. The heavy tractors represent an investment of more than $2000 and if they are to pay, enough work must be provided to keep the busy. The interest alone is no small item, and unless considerable custom work is done, the overhead expense for the big tractor on the small farm would overbalance any saving in getting the work done.

Mr. Brockway says a man must be more or less of a mechanic to operate a tractor satisfactorily.

The farm provides work for a dozen or 15 horses, in addition to the two tractors. Neither of the tractors will plow corn, and as this is one of the big crops on Mr. Brockway’s farm, he cannot get along without horses.

In seeding a 120 acre field to oats this spring, the small tractor operator succeeded in covering 90 acres in two days, when he was stopped by rain. On the front end of the drill was stationed a box which held about 30 bushels.

Frequently the tractor is kept at work from daylight till dark. The operator gets an early breakfast and begins operations as soon as he can see. At about 11 o’clock, Mr. Brockway goes to the field and runs the outfit while the man takes a couple of hours off for lunch. Then the man comes back at one o’clock and runs it until supper time when Mr. Brockway relieves him again for an hour, or for the evening as the case may be. The tractor does not have to stop to eat, to drink, nor to rest, but it works on as long as there is somebody to drive it.

The 120-acre field put to oats this spring will be plowed as soon as the oats are harvested. Here the big tractor will come into play, as it has in the past. It will pull two or three binders and disk the ground right after.

Altho the heavy tractor weighs in the neighborhood of 9 tons, and the small one 3 tons, no injurious effects have been noticed from packing. The weight is claimed to be so evenly distributed over the wide wheel surface that no more weight is exerted on the soil than would be made with a horse’s foot. The only portion of the ground which seems packed is the first one or two inches. Down below, it is as mellow as on the area not touched by the tractor wheels.