This article was originally featured in the October issue of Drovers CattleNetwork.

Throughout 2015, U.S. sales figures for utility tractors was a mixed bag with machines in the 40-60 horsepower (hp) range recording a 2.5 percent drop in sales while demand for those in the 60-100 hp range were up 3.1 percent.

The 2015 figures aren’t surprising since the lower-horsepower segment of the so-called “utility tractor” market is traditionally driven by property owners and rural-life enthusiasts, a demographic whose buying habits ebb and flow with the health of the nation’s economy. The higher-powered category, however, represents commercial buyers who use the machines for business purposes.

“These larger machines are going into construction, farming and ranching,” explains Doran Herritt, marketing manager for under-60 hp tractors at CNH Industrial. “One of the stronger segments in the agriculture area is livestock operators buying these machines for multipurpose use, and particularly for rotary cutting and loading.”

Herritt says New Holland’s new Workmaster Series, with 50, 60 and 70 hp models, sells directly into that market and 80 percent of the machines are sold with a front-end loader installed. “Generally, the buyers for these tractors are looking for a dependable, well-designed tractor at a competitive price to do light hay work, keep their properties, move and fill bulk materials and provide a power source for mixers and other tools.”

New Holland’s Workmaster 70 is aimed squarely at the sweet spot of the mid-line utility tractor “value” market with loader and light haying abilities.

Herritt says those same considerations are driving sales in the upper end of the 40-60 hp segment and right on through machines in the 80-90 hp range.

“There has been an explosion of these mid-line utility tractors being purchased for hired hands to operate,” says Greg Lucey, marketing manager for Farmall Tractors at Case IH. “A lot of buyers are looking at economy models like our A Series because inexperienced hired hands don’t need all the bells and whistles, but they do need dependable, efficient and safe multipurpose tractors.

“Ultimately the machines save a lot of manual labor around a livestock operation, and feeders and ranchers can find a multitude of chores for them, particularly as designs put more powerful engines in smaller packages,” he explains.

Manufacturers have been quick to respond with “value” models aimed at animal-agriculture “chore work.”

New Holland’s Workmaster Series was introduced early in 2015 and sports an 8X8 mechanical transmission with a synchronized shuttle. John Deere introduced its 105-130 hp multi-purpose 6E Series value tractor in August and equipped it with a 12X12 standard transmission with six speeds aimed at “haying operations.” Case IH’s Farmall A Series comes in 50, 60 and 70 hp models with a choice of transmissions. AGCO recently introduced its 4600M utility tractor in the 70-100 hp range in platform and cab models that come with a choice of 12- or 18-speed transmissions and 2- or 4-wheel-drive configurations.

AGCO’s Massey Ferguson 4600M is matched with several larger balers and comes in 70-100 hp platform or cab models with a choice of two transmissions.

Herritt says he sees a trend in the mid-line utility tractor segment toward more features.

“Just like in the automotive industry, competition is providing more choices, and manufacturing technology is making today’s options more affordable as tomorrow’s standard equipment,” he explains. “Customers are already requesting power-shuttle transmissions, cabs and hydrostatic drive on the bottom end of these ‘value’ tractors. As technology becomes more affordable, I’m certain we’ll see more of these amenities on mid-line utility tractors.”

The new 6E Series multi-purpose tractor from John Deere is in the upper end of the utility tractor horsepower range but is designed to compete in the hay meadow as well as in feeding and farming operations.