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Mowing machine mania: a cutter exists for every occasion.

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Folks were maintaining lawns and cutting meadows long before the advent of power tools--motor-powered tools that is. Lawns belonging to early European aristocrats were kept trim by gangs of gardeners wielding grass-trimming scissors. Peasants who tilled those same estates made hay with scythe and rake. That work, which was every bit as tedious as it was grueling, stimulated the minds of 19th-century inventors who, lucky for us, spawned entire industries aimed at offering better ways to manage rank vegetation.

Today, whether you are interested in maintaining a nicely manicured lawn, managing native grasslands, improving pastures or just beating back the weeds, there are literally hundreds of mower models to choose from. We've included a roundup of a few of the latest and greatest here (and at www.Grit.com) to help get you started.

A mower by any other name

As with many fully evolved creatures, the amount of variation in mower types boggles the mind. Some mowers make the cut with a multibladed reel that sheers the grass against a fixed bed knife. Indeed, this so-called reel-type mower was first invented in the early 1800s. The reel mower is specifically adept at making fine cuts suitable for formal lawns and golf courses. In today's terms, the reel mower is one of the finest finish-cut mowers available. Reel mowers can be human-powered or motor-powered, and, in the case of large estates and country clubs, gangs of connected reel mowers are pulled, pushed or otherwise powered by tractors.

Most other types of finish-cut mowers utilize engine- or PTO-powered horizontally spinning blades. The smaller of these devices are pushed by the operator; some are self propelled (operator walks). The next evolutionary step in finish mowers involves some means for the operator to ride along. These riding-type finish-cut mowers include zero turning radius (ZTR) machines, three- and four-wheel dedicated riders, and lawn tractors with a dedicated mowing deck attached. Larger rotary-type finish-cut mowers tend to be mounted on a compact tractor's three-point hitch, although many trail behind, and some mount between the front and rear wheels. Large finish-cut mowers that mount to the front of equipment like tractors and utility vehicles are also available.

Rough-cut mowers are at the opposite end of the extreme compared with reel mowers. These brutes are all powered with their own engine or through a PTO (some are hydraulic) located on the vehicle to which they are attached. These machines are capable of munching tall weeds and grass, crop residue and saplings up to several inches in diameter. Most rough-cut mowers use heavy, horizontally oriented rotary blades that cut, shred and pulverize their way through vegetation. Some rough-cut mowers are flail-type (see below). Rough-cut mowers are perfect for managing meadows and ditches and, in places where the climax ecosystem is forest, keeping it out of your open fields. If you are looking for that nicely manicured look in your back 40, a hybrid mower might be in order.

There aren't that many hybrid rough/finish-cut mowers out there. Some of the largest capacity hybrids make the cut with a series of small-hinged hook- or T-shaped blades (flails) attached to a heavy, horizontally oriented shaft or drum that rotates at high speed during operation. This so-called flail mower works by slinging the legion of little cutters at sufficient speed that they sever, shred and pulverize coarser vegetation. When spun fast enough, some of these mowers make a cut that's clean enough to please all but the most discriminating lawn owners. Other hybrid mowers tend to be beefed-up rotary-style cutters with strong, fixed blades that can be turned fast enough to make a clean cut on the lawn and are strong enough to stand up to coarser material.

Choices, choices ...

In all likelihood, you will need at least two mowers and possibly three, depending on how big your yard is and how much open land you need to keep trim. If you have a relatively small yard--say a half-acre or less--you can probably get away with a walk-behind motor-powered lawn mower. This, of course, depends on how ambitious you are and whether mowing grass is part of your exercise regime. Even if you mow an acre or more of lawn, you will probably want a small walk-behind mower to get into tight areas, trim around trees and shrubs and use in other places where you don't want to drive a rider--like a steep bank or the edge of your pond. Walk-behind mower choices are many. If your lawn is postage stamp-sized, then you should consider the human-powered reel mower or a cordless electric mower and skip the hassles associated with maintaining gas engines.

Once the lawn grows beyond half an acre or so, you will want to consider a larger self-propelled mower. ZTR mowers are available in sizes suitable for lawns up to several acres. These machines are usually steered with a pair of levers, can turn in place and make short shift of the mowing. Until recently, the ZTR was a dedicated mowing machine. Manufacturers now offer attachments such as blades and rear hitches to help homeowners get more out of them, but they are definitely not yet as versatile as lawn and garden tractors.

If your yard work goes well beyond mowing, then you might consider purchasing a garden tractor with a mower deck, in addition to other implements such as tillers, blades, carts, rakes, you name it. The garden tractor isn't as maneuverable as the ZTR, but it is good at going straight and pulling tools through the garden. The lawn tractor is a lighter-duty version of the garden tractor. It makes a good riding mower and trailer tow-vehicle, but, in general, its transmission isn't up to the task of heavy garden work.

As the lawn gets larger, you will look for larger and more powerful finish mowers. Several manufacturers offer trailing mowers that can be pulled by small tractors, ATVs and UTVs. If you already own an ATV, a self-powered trailing mower makes an excellent choice. Likewise, if you already own a compact tractor and have acres of lawn, you might consider purchasing a finishing mower deck that mounts to the tractor and is powered by it.

Depending on the amount of open area you need to maintain, you should add a rough-cut mower to the mix. If you have only a few field acres to mow, a self-powered mower pulled by an ATV or UTV is ideal. This is also where you might consider a hybrid--but rough country mowing is hard on any mower and can affect the finish performance negatively. Your garden tractor can also motivate pull-type mowers over hill and dale, but its relatively short stature makes it difficult to see over tall grass and weeds. That tractor's lack of suspension will also make for a rough ride, which will invariably lead to frame damage or worse. As the acreage you need to mow grows, it would be best to step up to a rough-cut mower that attaches directly to your compact or full-sized tractor.

Before you take the plunge

As you research mowers of various kinds, you will notice a broad variation in prices for what appears to be the same capacity cutter. Mowers are rated by their cutting width, engine power and/or gearbox power rating. Look more closely, and you will discover that similarly rated mowers can vary in weight by more than 100 pounds, and they might have very different sets of added features, such as a manual height control vs. hydraulic.

In general, you will find good quality mowers wherever you look, but some (typically lighter and less costly) "consumer grade" machines are designed for relatively light use where other (heavier and more costly) "professional grade" models are designed for more frequent and longer operation. If you mow an acre of grass once a week for five months of the year, the lighter duty machine will work and last well. If you mow more often or substantially more acreage, you will want to choose a heavier-duty model. Marketing departments are savvy to the whole image thing, so you might find some models touted as "prosumer grade," "heavy-duty," you name it. Ask the sales person how much it weighs, how much it costs, its spindle bearing size, and the length of its warranty if you aren't sure just how heavy-duty any machine in question is.

For best results, talk to friends, read everything you can, scour the Web, and find a knowledgeable salesperson at a trusted dealership to help sort through the choices. As with any tool, spending a bit more up front can lead to real economy over time. Since there are so many makers and so many different mower models, we've included only a sampling below. More options are available at www.Grit.com.
SUB-COMPACT AND GARDEN TRACTOR MOUNTED FINISH MOWERS

NEW HOLLAND T1010 AND 60CMS DECK

New Holland's (www.NewHolland.com); 866-639-4563) incredible lineup
includes highly capable sub-compact tractors that make
great heavy-duty estate mowers.

         MSRAP    $12,043, including deck
 Cutting Width    60 in
         Power    20 HP 3-cylinder diesel
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1 to 4 in
        Weight    1,455 lb tractor only

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MORE LAWN AND GARDEN TRACTOR OPTIONS

Troy-Hilt (www.TroyBilt.com)

White Outdoor (www.WhiteOutdoor.com)

Cub Cadet (www.CubCadet.com, 800-800-7310)

Ariens (www.Ariens.com)

Toro (www.Toro.com)

John Deere (www.Deere.com)

Massey Ferguson (www.MasseyLawn.com)

Snapper (www.Snapper.com; 800-SNAPPER)
SMALL CAPACITY FINISH MOWERS

LAWNBOTT 3500 ROBOTIC FINISH MOWER

The LawnBott (www.LawnBott.com 770-237-0364) line of robotic
mowers now includes an even larger 1.5-acre capacity LB3500 that can
be programmed and controlled from any Bluetooth compatible device.
Sit back, relax and let the robot mow the grass.

        MSRP      $3,249
Cutting Width     14 in
      Battery     2 lithium ion
        Power     dual drive and single
                  blade motors
Cutting Blades    4-blade disc
Cutting Height    1 to 3 in
        Weight    28 lb with batteries

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NEUTON POWER EQUIPMENT CE 6.2

Neuton (www.DRPower.com; 800-798-2921) takes the conventional
horizontal blade, rotary-style mower and makes it into an easy-to-use
rechargeable electric unit.

          MSRP    $499
 Cutting Width    19 in
       Battery    36-volt, 10-amp hour,
                  sealed lead/acid
         Power    36-volt, 50-amp permanent
                  magnet electric motor
Cutting Blades    1
Cutting Height    1.2 to 3 in
        Weight    69 lb
                  with battery

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SUNLAWN EM2 REEL MOWER

Sunlawn's (www.Sunlawn.com; 970-493-5284) EM family of mowers is
perfect for lawns large enough to warrant a little extra power in
the form of a rechargeable battery coupled to an electric motor.

          MSRP    $379
 Cutting Width    16 in
       Battery    2 12-volt, 7-amp hour,
                  sealed lead/acid
        Power     24-volt electric motor
Cutting Blades    7-blade reel,
                  flame-hardened
Cutting Height    0.4 to 2.25 in
     Weight 39    lb with batteries

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MORE SMALL MOWER OPTIONS

Troy-Bilt (www.TroyBilt.com)

Mantis (www.MaintisMower.com; 800-366-6268)

Cub Cadet (www.CubCadet.com; 800-800-7310)

Ariens (www.Ariens.com)

Snapper (www.Snapper.com; 800-SNAPPER)

Toro (www.Toro.com)
TRACTOR- AND UTV-MOUNTED FINISH MOWERS

McCORMICK MS60 FINISH MOWER

McCormick's (www.Mccormick-intl.com/us) new lineup of finishing mowers
is perfectly suited to their compact CT series tractors. The decks are
available with cutting widths to 72 inches.

          MSRP    NA at press time
 Cutting Width    60 in
         Power    20 to 50 PTO HP
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1 to 6 in
        Weight    400 lb

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BUHLER/FARM KING Y650R FINISH MOWER

Buhler/Farm King (www.Buhler.com; 204-822-4467) has been building
top-quality finishing mowers for 15 years and has refined them to be
among the best in the industry.

          MSRP    $1,950
 Cutting Width    72 in
         Power    PTO rating NA
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1.75 to 4.75 in
        Weight    618 lb

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BOBCAT 72-INCH FINISH MOWER

Bobcat's (www.Bobcat.com; contact local dealer) hydraulically driven
attachment is designed specifically for the front of its ToolCat,
select loaders and the A300 all-wheel steer mower.

          MSRP    $1,950
 Cutting Width    71.5 in
         Power    15-22 GPM
                  hydraulic flow
Cuffing Blades    3
Cutting Height    2 to 5.5 in
        Weight    695 lb

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CUB CADET YANMAR MM60RS FINISH MOWER

Designed to take advantage of all that the Cub Cadet Yanmar
(www.CubCadetYanmar.com; 877-282-5055) EX3200 tractor has to offer,
this heavy duty deck easily makes the cut.

         MSRP     $1,297
 Cutting Width    60 in Power 20 to 50 PTO HP
Cuffing Blades    3
Cuffing Height    1 to 6 in
        Weight    361 lb

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MORE TRACTOR-MOUNTED MOWER OPTIONS

Kubota (www.Kubota.com)

Befco (www.Befco.com)

Montana Tractors (www.MontanaTractors.com)

KingKutter (wwvv.KingKutter.com)
TRACTOR-MOUNTED ROUGH-CUT MOWERS

BUSH HOG SQUEALER SQ172
ROTARY CUTTER

The Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com;
800-363-6096) brand was built on a
tradition of quality and literally millions
of hours of rough-country mowing.

            MSRP    See dealer
   Cutting Width    72 in
           Power    30 to 45 PTO HP
Cutting Spindles    1 (2 blades)
  Cutting Height    2 to 12 in
          Weight    764 lb

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RHINO 172 ROTARY CUTTER

Rhino (wwvv.Servis-Rhino.com) is a leader in the agricultural equipment
industry and offers several lines of tractor-mounted mowers.

            MSRP    See dealer
   Cutting Width    72 in
           Power    35 to 65 PTO HP
Cutting Spindles    1 (2 blades)
  Cutting Height    1 in and up
          Weight    785 lb

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LOFTNESS 90M FLAIL MOWER

Born of innovation that traces its roots to a Minnesota farm shop,
Loftness (www.Loftness.com 800-828-7524) heavy-duty flail mowers
have been part of the lineup since 1996.

            MSRP    $5,547
   Cutting Width    90 in
           Power    25 to 70 PTO HP
  Cutting Blades    120 flails
  Cutting Height    0 to 4.5 in
          Weight    1,200 lb

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LAND PRIDE RCR1860
ROTARY CUTTER

Large acreage or small, commercial operator or home owner, you'll find
the rough cut rotary shredder you need to get the job done at Land
Pride (www.LandPride.com: contact local dealer).

            MSRP    $1,297
   Cutting Width    60 in
           Power    20 to 50 PTO HP
Cutting Spindles    1 (2 blades)
  Cutting Height    1 1/2 to 13 in
          Weight    599 lb

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MORE TRACTOR-MOUNTED MOWER OPTIONS

Tiger (www.Tiger-Mowers.com)

John Deere (www.Deere.com)

New Holland (www.NewHolland.com)

Massey Ferguson (www.MasseyFerguson.com)
ZERO TURNING RADIUS FINISH MOWERS

DR POWER 22 HP
VERSA-PRO Z-MOWER

DR's Versa-Pro (www.DRPower.com) is as sophisticated as a ZTR can get,
but it is also convertible (in seconds) to a walk-behind for working
under trees, on slopes and wherever riding isn't recommended.

          MSRP    $6,995
 Cutting Width    52 in
         Power    22 HP Briggs & Stratton
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1.5 to 4.5 in
        Weight    835 lb

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LAND PRIDE ZT60
ACCU-Z COMMERCIAL

A premier maker of tractor-mounted implements, Land Pride
(www.LandPride.com contact local dealer) offers an outstanding value
in high-quality ZTR mowers.

          MSRP    $8,549
 Cutting Width    60 in
         Power    25 HP Kawasaki
                  (others available)
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    0.5 to 4.5 in
        Weight    1,120 lb

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BOB-CAT FASTCAT 48-INCH

Commercial Grounds Care Inc.'s Bob-Cat (www.BobCatTurf.com
866-469-1242) line of ZTR and walk-behind mowers is extensive and
 respected in the commercial cutter community.

          MSRP    See dealer
 Cutting Width    48 in
         Power    19 HP Kawasaki twin
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1.5 to 4.875 in
        Weight    766 lb

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WALKER MODEL MC20

Still family owned, Walker (www.WalkerMowers.com; 970-221-5614)
is all about heavy-duty mowing machines that are easy to maneuver
and maintain.

          MSRP    $9.395 with
                  42-inch deck
 Cutting Width    8 decks 36-56 in
         Power    20 HP Kohler
Cutting Blades    2 or 3
Cutting Height    1 to 4 in
Weight            925 lb

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HUSQVARNA EZ4824

Husqvarna (www.Husqvama.com) offers a full lineup of residential and
commercial ZTR machines with the mowing deck located beneath the
operator's station. The commercial model EZ4824 should last the average
acreage owner a lifetime with proper care.

          MSRP    $4,999.95
 Cutting Width    48 in
         Power    24 HP Kohler
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1.5 to 4.5 in
        Weight    645 lb

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FERRIS IS500Z

Known for its chassis suspension system, Ferris
(www.FerrisIndustries.com; 800-933-6175) offers mowers that
set the standard for high-speed cutting.

          MSRP    $4,995
 Cutting Width    44 in
         Power    24 HP Briggs & Stratton
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1.5 to 5 in
        Weight    965 lb

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KUBOTA ZD326

Kubota ZD-series mowers (www.Kubota.com; contact local dealer) are
engineered to enable both commercial operators and residential users to
attain a manicured lawn in the toughest terrain

          MSRP    $11,910
 Cutting Width    60 in
         Power    26 HP Kubota diesel
Cutting Blades    3
Cutting Height    1 to 5 in
        Weight    1,757 lb

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MORE ZTR MOWER OPTIONS

Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com)

Cub Cadet Commercial (www.CubCadetCommercial.com)

Ariens (www.Ariens.com)

Swisher (www.SwisherInc.com; 800-222-8183)

John Deere (www.Deere.com)

Dixon (www.Dixon-ZTR.com)

Bad Boy (www.BadBoyMowers.com)

Zipper (www.ZipperMowers.com)

Dixie Chopper (www.DixieChopper.com)

Grasshopper (www.GrasshopperMower.com)
ATV TRAILING MOWERS

AGRI-FAB 45-0362
ELECTRIC-START ROUGH-CUT

Agri-Fab (www.Agri-Fab.com; 217-728-8388) offers one of the most
extensive lineups of lawn and garden implements, including mowers,
trailers, blades, plows, spreaders and more.

          MSRP    $1,599
 Cutting Width    42 in
         Power    14.5 HP Briggs
                  & Stratton
Cutting Blades    2
Cutting Height    1.5 to 5 in
        Weight    504 lb

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KUNZ ACREASE MR55KE ROUGH CUT

The flagship of Kunz Engineering's (www.KunzEng.com 815-539-6954)
rough-cut mowers, this professional-grade machine features electric
clutch and a blade speed that muscles its way through tough vegetation
at more than 10 miles per hour.

         MSRP    $4,495
 Cutting Width    57 in
         Power    20 HP Kohler
Cutting Blades    2
Cutting Height    2 to 8 in
        Weight    580 lb

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DR POWER 17 HP TOW-BEHIND
FIELD & BRUSH MOWER

Big brother to DR's famous walk-behind Field & Brush mower
(www.DRPower.com; 800-798-2921), one of the company's pull-type
versions, hooked to your ATV's drawbar, will allow you to
easily shred up to 2 acres an hour.

          MSRP    $3,299
 Cutting Width    44 in
         Power    17 HP Kawasaki
Cutting Blades    1
Cutting Height    5 to 7.5 in
        Weight    465 lb

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SWISHER TRAILCUTTER
RT 44 ROUGH CUT

Swisher (www.SwisherInc.com; 800-222-8183) has been serving the lawn
and garden industry since 1945 and is leading the charge with ATV and
UTV mowing attachments.

          MSRP    NA
 Cutting Width    44 in
         Power    14.5 HP Briggs
                  & Stratton
Cutting Blades    2 (single spindle)
Cutting Height    2 to 7 in
        Weight    550 lb

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MORE ATV MOWER OPTIONS

Al's Specialties Inc. (www.EstateYard.net)

Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com)

QuadBoss (www.QuadBoss.com)

Oscar "Hank" Will III's favorite for mowing the lawn is a 1984 Kubota Diesel-powered Cub Cadet 882 with 50-inch deck. When that tractor's in the shop, he has more than 20 other vintage Cub Cadet cutters waiting in the wings.
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Author:Will, Oscar H., III
Publication:Grit
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:3147
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