Not sure how much "a few acres" is, but unless the ground is very hilly or you intend on pulling something, I'd say get a zero-turn mower. If you go with a conventional mower, hydrostatic drive makes things so much easier.
I have ~3 acres and use a John Deere 48", 20 HP GX-255 that I bought before the zero-turns became readily available. I can mow it in about 2-1/2 hours.
The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. Winston Churchill
If you are mowing pasture, buy a commercial grade one and not one from a big box store (even a nice one from a big box store.) Had a fancy Toro from Home Depot but not commercial grade and after a year and a half on my farm it was beat all to hell. The commercial Kabota I replaced it with is a whole nother beast.
Highly recommend John Deere commercial zero turns. We've got a 2004 757 that we bought new in 2005 and it never misses a beat. Occasional belt replacement and consistent maintenance always important, tho. You can mow at 15 mph if the ground is smooth enough to not get bucked off! But they're not good at all in terrain/hilly land.
subk - absolutely! Note I didn't say I MOWED at 15 mph, said YOU COULD!!!
another though to add - the 757 mower height goes up to about 5-6" (I like my pastures in the 4-6" range). Many/most of the lawn stuff I've seen (including my JD lawn & garden jobbie on the other farm) will not mow high enough for pasture use.
final comment - with the wide 757 mower, if you've got a board fence with the lowest board off the ground at least 6", you can put the mower under the fence and only have about 1/2" of trim at each post. And a little roundup fixes that!
I've got a 5 acre place, basically level, and I use both a Wheelhorse WH(60") riding mower and a Ferris Zero Turn FZT(61"). I prefer the WH for mowing closer to my fence posts and any damp or wet areas as the FZT get stuck on a drop of water. The Ferris has a great suspension that allows for a great ride whereas the Wheelhorse shakes the boobs out of the bra! The Ferris also mows a bit higher~4-5" and is better for the pastures than the WH. Any sloping areas, like the ditch at the road I prefer the WH. Both are a heavy duty mowers and well worth all the $ I paid for them.
I bought my first WH, a 2nd hand-48", and only planned to use it on the lawn, but hated the tractor and bushhog so I started to use the first WH. Then got the bigger mowing deck (60") and it made it much easier and faster. I will admit that I beat the daylights out of the first WH for probably 11 yrs and it took it quite well.
Last edited by msj; May. 24, 2012 at 11:28 AM.
Reason: added last paragraph
Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you!
We had a lot of people tell us to get a zero turn when we opened our farm last fall, but in all honesty we just didn't have the budget for it. I did a lot of research and finally settled on a husqvarna 23hp riding mower. It has a 48" deck and hydrostatic transmission, which I LOVE. Our lil mower has been worth it's weight in GOLD. And I have been having to tackle some pretty massive projects with it too!!!
I recommend a sturdy traditional riding mower over a zero turn. I pull an aerator and broadcast seed spreader with my riding mower. I don't think the zero turn mowers are designed to pull carts or lawn equipment.
I second the Sears Craftsman Garden Tractor, 25 HP model. It can tow all the things Fancy That mentioned, plus an 8-stall manure spreader, and I used it to mow and/or drag pastures, work the dressage arena footing, etc. A bit difficult for a weak armed female to remove the mower deck and replace it, but this sucker ran and ran and ran. The zero turn mowers are nice for mowing the front yard, but when you do a pasture you frequently mow with a drag behind to break up manure, and you can't zero turn those.
I've mowed with a couple of different riding lawnmowers. Most mowers will do the work. Yes, we had a 24 horse power Sears mower, 3 blades and it would struggle in heavier or wet grass. The real problem is that lawnmowers in general have mower decks that are set too low. If you cut many pasture grasses too low you can really harm the grass, just like grazing to low.
I attended and excellent lecture given by an extension agent who specialty was equine properties. He explained that many grasses are significantly weakened when they are mowed too short. This why we are wasting our money with using those pasture seed mixes that are based on Orchard and Timothy seed then allowing our horses to graze the pastures too short. You'll be wondering what happened to those grasses. Clover stores it's sugars(plants food) in it's roots so as the grasses die the clover comes on strong. I've read that Orchard grass should be mowed in the 3-5" range but was advised to stick with the 5" height.