BCS Review

This one is more for other farmers and smallholders rather than my customers…

Last year we purchased a BCS 732 with sickle bar to help us maintain the pasture.

BCS 732

We started with the sickle bar because it can do a passable job at the lawn, as well as cut hay and clear brush.  It has indeed served all those purposes well, but I don’t recommend trying to mow over the rebar stakes for the old horseshoe set.  We have not used it to do the lawn since someone gave us an old lawn tractor, but we still use it to cut a little bit of hay.   The manufacturer recommends following the contour of the land, if we disregard that instruction (as the shape of the hill and the shape of the fence and a reasonably efficient pattern of cutting are not compatible with that instruction) we have issues with it tipping backwards, but anticipating this and putting a little lift on the handles keeps things running smoothly.

The manual was a little confusing on what oil to use (three different manuals say three different things…) but overall doing regular maintenance on the engine is easy, and the electric start has been reliable.

We next purchased the snow blower.  This was a godsend, we’d been using shovels when we first arrived.  (We had a plow contract, but the plow man didn’t always come before we needed to move the cars in the morning.)  Again balance is sometimes an issue, and upward force must be applied.  I wish for this application that I’d gone with the larger wheels and put some chains and wheel weights on it.

We purchased the quick hitch for swapping implements, and it’s not really so quick.  There is lots of wiggling, banging, etc.  Make sure your quick hitch is well lubricated before it gets put together.  A spray on lithium grease is a good option for this.  The shorter the time the hitch has been together the more useful it is, it is nice during spring to be able to swap out the rototiller and mower frequently, but after a winter of having the snow blower attached it was a bear to get off.  The quick hitch is also a bear to adjust correctly, our dealer usually does not get the alignment correct on the first try and we have to toy with it.  Some of the attachments require either a quick hitch or a hitch extension, and if you have a quick hitch for one implement you may as well use it for all of them.  If you’re handy with an air wrench you might go with the extension instead.

After that we went for the rototiller.  The rototiller is wonderful, if anything it over-pulverized my soil making the garden a bit dry, but weeding has been a cinch all year.   It didn’t break new ground terribly well, you might want to double-dig the first year of a new plot.  We also had some issues where the mulch was too thick.  A mow and a rake was useful before tilling.

Overall, I feel a bit trapped by the non-standard pto and the lack of available used attachments.  I need a flail mower now, and I’m going to have to shell out 2 grand for a new one.  I wish I’d gotten the larger tractor that could handle the potato digger and dozer blade, and the larger wheels.  But yet I am going ahead and buying that flail mower because the BCS can get through all the narrow gates and sharp turns my pastures have to offer, and slide right along the steep hills without major issue.  My hay man won’t even consider taking his tractor on to pasture 4, but that’s exactly the land the BCS was built for.  (Although they recommend a second operator with a pole for the very steep bits.)

I would not recommend the BCS if you have more than a couple acres and it’s all flat land with access ways wide enough for a full sized tractor.  Go for a used tractor with a standard 3 point hitch instead and open up a world of used equipment.  Do go for the new BCS if you have small, steep, or narrow place, or are hesitant to learn tractor maintenance all at once and can’t afford a full sized tractor new.  On similar acreage, the BCS will take more of your time and less of your gas then a riding mower, mostly because it doesn’t have to haul you or a big frame around, so it can be a good choice on small acreage.

We are currently in a position where we are looking at having to do our own hay on 10 acres of hay field, and will have to upgrade to a full sized tractor to do it.  Even if we did go for the EarthTools miniature rake and baler, and did have the time to walk up and down the field that much, then we’d have 400-800 bales to go pick up off the ground, and being round bales they won’t stack as well as small squares, and being small rounds they won’t weather outside as well as large rounds.  Just unloading a cart of 100 bales loaded by a kick baler is a lot of work, never mind hand loading it too.  We are still deciding what kind of tractor to get, but we would like to have more control over how our hay is produced than the local custom balers want to work with.