Can a compact tractor be an alternative to an ATV in the forest? Really small tractors are common in many countries but have been a rare sight in Scandinavia. In the extent that they exist they typically work in municipal park management. But can they serve a purpose in the forests of Scandinavia?
Many forest owners in Sweden have an ATV as a complement to the larger tractor often residing on the land. The ATV is fast and flexible in terms of transporting yourself, chain saws and other equipment to the forest. But the ATV is nowadays also frequently used to transport timber as cranes and trailers grow more powerful. With hydraulic drive and frame steering of the trailer, the terrain capacity also enters a whole different league for a fully loaded ATV.
The new generation of powerful ATV trailers (like Kranman or Avestavagnen) is creating the opportunity to use a compact tractor in the forest. Small, four wheel drive tractors with a weight of 1000 kg or less (appr 2000 Lbs). Compare that to the ATV and the tractor has a higher ground clearance, better accessibility and a more stable machine with an increased weight.
Branson compact tractor
There are a number of brands to choose between where some which are focused more on parks carry a higher price tag. An alternative within an interesting price range is the South Korean brand Branson which, since four years ago, is sold on the Swedish market by Traktorimport in western Sweden. I went to Benny Gustafsson who runs the company to get a glimpse of the Branson in the forest and it resulted in a video which you’ll find further down.
Handy size – fits at the office
As you enter the office of Traktorimport you’re met by a Branson 3100 inside the hall. You quickly realize what a handy size the compact tractor has when you see it indoors. 1.39 cm wide, around 3 meter long and a weight of 800 kg. The three cylinder diesel motor provides 23.2 kW (30 hk) which by comparison should be a bit more than that of a Little grey Fergie.
The tractor has three point hitch (lift), PTO with two speeds (540 & 960) and there’s a possibility to attach a front loader with a lifting capacity of 400 kg.
– Besides the forest these tractors have become popular on horse farms, says Benny Gustavsson.
Outside, in the yard, another few tractors are presented in various sizes, but it’s the little 3100 that we’ll have a closer look at.
Compact tractor and trailer with crane
We make our way to a forest area where a gentle thinning of small trees has been carried out in an otherwise older spruce stand. There’s a demo tractor with a mounted Kranman T1600-trailer. Such a setup with compact tractor and trailer would cost around SEK 165 000 (US$ 19 500 Dec 2017) excluding tax, according to Benny. That includes protective plates, however the little roof/rain protection is not included. It adds another SEK 11 500 (US$ 1360) to the price tag but is a very convenient thing to have during a day like the one when we were filming.
The tractor hydraulics serves the crane
The Kranman T1650, which is the name of the current version of the trailer, is just the right size for the Branson tractor. The tractor is 1.39 cm wide and the trailer is 1.42. When you attach a trailer like this one to an ATV an additional gas engine with hydraulic pump to power the crane and other hydraulic functions is required. When attaching it to the Branson tractor, however, the tractors own hydraulic system is sufficient if the crane is a Kranman 330 which doesn’t require a high flow. The trailer can handle a maximum load of 1650 kg (1600 kg for the T1600 trailer seen in the video).
Behind the tractor, Benny has a trailer without drive on the trailer wheels. He says that it works well on the conditions he operates on. The compact tractor has a much better pulling ability than an ATV due to the larger wheels/tires and heavier weight. The ground clearance is good, 39 cm (15+ inch) according to the brochure but possibly even higher with only the hitch ball mounted.
It feels like a very smooth setup but frame steering on the trailer would have made it even more versatile. The compact tractor lacks the flexibility and speed of the ATV during smaller projects or when you’re just going out with the chain saw. On the other hand it has a larger capacity to deliver timber. The operational costs of fuel should differ significantly to the favor of the compact tractor. An ATV with a gasoline engine and an additional engine for the hydraulic pump for the crane and trailer doesn’t come cheaply in terms of fuel. Especially when using a driven trailer which is almost necessary with a full load. Unfortunately I don’t have any information on how much fuel the Branson three cylinder diesel uses, but I gathered that it moves at a slower pace and should thus not have an enormous usage.
Here you’ll find more information on the Branson compact tractors and ATV trailers:
And here’s the video (in Swedish but with English subtitles):