10 Tips For Easier Brush Hogging

Getting Comfortable With the Brush Hog

Most people buying a tractor get some form of three point cutter with it for brush hogging. And yes, they are a little intimidated the first time they use it. Usually it is called a brush hog (or Bush Hog, but that’s a brand name).  In the U.K.  it’s a “topper.” It’s a “slasher” if you’re in Australia. But regardless of what it’s called, it’s a rough cut rotary cutter to clip pastures. Today we’ll discuss how to operate a brush hog. Then, I offer ten tips to make that first run across the field a pleasant experience.

Before we start, let’s make sure the tractor and cutter are field ready. On the brush hog: check the gearbox oil, grease it, level it and check the blade area to make sure nothing’s wrapped up around there. On the tractor: check the inflation of the back tires (so the cut is even). Make sure the radiator is clean and debris-free, because we’re going to give the tractor a little workout when cutting.

To brush hog, all you do is engage the PTO.  It may be button or lever activated if fully independent. On certain tractors, however, you may have to push the clutch down and move a lever, then gradually let up on the clutch. You want to be between 1200 and 1600 RPM’s when turning the PTO on. Then all you do is drive!

Having said that, there are ten practices I’d recommend to make your first trip across the field uneventful. These can also apply if you’re an experienced operator.

tractor with brush hog

 

Ten Tips For Easier and Safer Brush Hogging

quick-attach-bucket1.If you have a quick attach bucket, take it off. Those things stick out and can hit posts, trees, etc. Drop it in the weeds and you don’t have to worry about it.

 

2. Drive slow until you get comfortable. Low gear in hydro, low range on a gear-drive tractor. Take it easy until you get a feel for what you’re doing.

 

 

3. Watch for obstructions. That can include objects hidden in the weeds, but also watch where your roll bar goes. Low limbs or utility wires can encounter the ROPs structure and create an extremely dangerous situation.

 

 

 

brush hogging in high grass

 

4.  Start in low grass if you can. I never like to engage the PTO where it starts out cutting. If you can kick in the PTO in an area you’ve already mowed and drive into the weeds. It’s easier on the tractor, cutter, and you.

 

 

5.  Watch the tractor temperature gauge. When brush hogging mature weeds, the seeds can shatter and your fan may suck them right into the radiator. If the gauge is moving toward the red area, stop and clean the radiator out.

 

 

Sun Canopy for Tractor6.  Get sun protection. You can cook yourself pretty quickly in the sun brush hogging for hours on end. I recommend the Rhinohide canopy (available here: https://asktractormike.com/products-for-sale/) because it’s really tough. And you can take it off when you go back into the woods to cut a trail.

 

7. Keep people and pets away from where you’re brush hogging. Blades on a cutter run up to 18,000 feet per minute. When they encounter something in the field, they can throw it an amazing distance in all directions. Don’t let anyone around you when you’re running a rotary cutter!

8. Start mowing back and forth in the center of the field. Bush hogs generally stick out on both sides of the tractor. Until you get a feel for that, don’t try to move up next to trees and fences.

 

 

 

avoid-draws

 

9. Avoid draws, or valleys. Going through a dip in the field can put your equipment in a bind and mess up a PTO shaft (if you’re lucky). It could also damage the cutter gear box or the tractor PTO housing. Those are all expensive fixes that you don’t need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

newly-groomed-field10.  Finally, watch your butt or the back of your cutter. When turning, the rear of the brush hog will swing around really fast.  That means you have to be real careful it doesn’t contact anything. It sticks out more than you think it does when you’re a new operator.

 

It’s tremendously satisfying to look back and see the newly-groomed field when you’re done brush hogging. Do it a few times, get comfortable with the equipment and the process, and it will be a less daunting task.

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Tractor Mike

10 Comments

  1. John Howard on July 9, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I can think of an exception to #1, and that’s when you’re dealing with really tall weeds or grass, in a field that hasn’t been cut for a long time. Our cropland sat fallow for 3 years up until recently, since we were transitioning from conventional farming to organic and the law requires it. The last farmer we had planted horseweed as a cover crop; it grew to be 6-7 feet tall. When it came time to bush hog the fields in preparation for planting corn this past spring, I left the loader bucket on the front of the tractor and ran with it down low, 8-10″ off the ground. That way if there was anything lurking in the weeds that might damage the tractor, the bucket would hit it before the tractor did, and I’d know to stop and deal with the obstruction. That horseweed was not only tall, it was really thick, and it was hard to see what was coming up until you got right on top of it. So I mowed slowly and kept the bucket down low and out front, to be on the safe side.

  2. Robert Benson on July 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK, I WATCH YOUR VIDEOS ALL THE TIME & LOVE THEM ALL !

  3. Joe Pulcini on July 10, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Great advice, Mike!
    I’ve had a Deere brush hog for about five years and have never used it. It came with my used tractor as a package deal.
    Took it into my dealer last year to have it checked out (slip clutch, sharpened,etc) and am anxious to use it on some acreage I acquired (timber and meadow) that has never been mowed before. Lots of wild blackberry canes that are taking over part of the meadow.
    My neighbors horses have been in there for years and, needless to say, the ground is full of depressions due to them being in there in the wet winter months. Also, lots of mole activity.
    I’m sure the ride will be bumpy!
    Will let you know how it turns out.

  4. Kathe Wells on July 10, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Tractor Mike,
    I love you! You have saved my behind here on the ranch. My husband died unexpectedly 4 years ago. Although I had used the tractor to put out round bales, he would never teach me how to use the brush hog. When I HAD to I was petrified. My son came out to show me how and I was in tears I was so scared but I told him to ignor and just show me. It was so scary. I spent a big part of that first summer mowing very slowly my 58 acres of pastures. I only got half of them done. The next year I faced the music when wild blackberries threatened to take over. Today I’m pretty good at it and it doesn’t take me near as long. I can even hook it up thanks to you!
    You can’t even imagine how much your videos help me.
    Thank you!
    Please keep doing this forever!

    Kathe Wells
    26836 NCR 3253
    Wynnewood, OK 73098

  5. Gordon Gillies on July 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    I believe that an important tip would urge operators to check their manuals for the proper PTO RPM when cutting. Also take some time to figure out the proper deck height and then set the gauge so you can repeat it every mow session.

    • Daniel on July 11, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      I agree with the tips . . . I am a new tractor owner and brush hogging is a concern for me. Mike has been a blessing!!!

  6. Bob Davis on July 11, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    I put in about 4 hrs brush hogging in N Florida a couple of days ago and that Rhino Shield top made a huge difference! Glad to report that working this attachment between the pines is becoming almost second nature but still need to be aware of the tips you listed

  7. Dennis Moire on July 13, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Why did they stop using the spin out adjustable rear wheels on new tractors?They are handy.

    • Tractor Mike on July 13, 2019 at 7:05 pm

      Yeah they are. My guess for the reason they’re not offered anymore is simply because they’re expensive. They make it easy to adjust your tread width and add a bunch of weight to the back of the tractor which is good for stability. I’d bet that there are a lot of people, including younger farm people who have never seen them.

  8. Dennis Sanchez on September 9, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    My brother is considering purchasing a house that has a good amount of overgrown sections of grass that he wouldn’t be able to cut with a regular mower. It was helpful when you explained that it is important to avoid dips with a bush hog because the cutting mechanism can get damaged. If my brother does end up purchasing this property, it would probably be best if he had a professional company cut the property.

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