What types of tractors does your farm use? And how has machinery changed?

Posted: November 17, 2023

Answer: Tractors and machinery have changed tremendously in the last 80 years on our family farm. Today, we use tractors with tracks, RTK-GPS auto steer and a guidance system.

Things have changed considerably since my grandfather, Merwin Ness, started farming in the 1940s. He was a grain and livestock farmer and owned a Massey 44 tractor that had a metal cab and a canvas curtain on back.

A Farmall M was used to haul the feed wagon to fill the cattle feed bunks. For field work he had a CASE 500 tractor that had power steering which pulled a five bottom plow and a Minneapolis Moline U (that was his father’s) which had a hand crank start. The Minnie had a narrow front which allowed you to mount a 4-row front-mounted cultivator or 2-row corn picker. Later when hydraulics came along grandpa added a PTO powered hydraulic pump. It also had a hand clutch with a seat that swiveled to the side so you could stand and drive. My dad, Ron, learned to drive on that tractor because he could stand and not have to reach for the foot clutch.

The M was one of Grandpa’s first tractors.

In the 1970’s, Grandpa had some good cattle years and bought a Case 1370 and a 4WD 2470 which were his first air-conditioned tractors with radios and 4WD. The previous tractors had heat housers which were a canvas skirt to divert engine heat to the driver and a plastic windshield to protect from the wind.

In the 80’s my dad bought his first type of guidance system. These ‘cat whiskers’ were mounted on the front end of the 1370 to keep the tractor on the corn/bean row when cultivating. In the 80’s dad traded some of the Case tractors and purchased a Case 7120 with power shift. This tractor and the Case 1370 have been real work horses for us and we still own them today using them on the hay baler, grain drill and manure pump.

Our CAT Challenger with tracks and 325 hp is our newest tractor using GPS technology.

In the 2000’s farmers became concerned about compaction and tractors with tracks were one solution. A CAT 45 with tracks was purchased and used for strip till and later auto steer was added. In 2014 we purchased a tile plow so the CAT 45 with 225 hp was not powerful enough. A CAT 755C with 305 hp and a CAT Challenger 755D with 325 hp were added to the mix along with RTK – GPS auto steer which has sub-inch accuracy.

So you can see how technology has influenced how tractors and farm equipment have evolved on our farm and every other farm in America. But with all the trading of old tractors for newer ones, we still have my great-grandfather’s Minneapolis Moline U with plans to restore it someday.

The Ness Family – Jason, Stacie, and children, Mollie, Lucas, and Adam raise pigs, corn, and soybeans and have a hay baling business in rural Hinckley.