New Brush Hogging Job

I recently completed my largest brush hogging job to date. It went amazingly smooth. I had no tractor or equipment issues and my average time per acre was exactly what I had estimated. It was a good validation of the time it takes to cut an acre and how much I should be charging for brush hogging services.  

The job was to cut a field with pine tree saplings to stop them from growing so a home could be built. If the trees kept growing the cost to remove them would have significantly increased as time went by. This was likely the last year the trees could have been cut with a standard brush hog. Fortunately the trees previously harvested were cut at or below grade making the ground as smooth as I could have hoped for. The clouds and rain were a welcome relief from the hot and dusty conditions we have been experiencing in and around the Chiefland FL area for months now. 

Brush Hogging On Weekends

As a weekend warrior I have to plan my time efficiently. My big obstacle is the two hours I have to drive to simply get to my tractor going from Tampa, FL to Otter Creek, FL. This trip will cost me about 3/4 of a tank of gas or about $50 at current diesel fuel prices. Any income I generate costs me $50 before I even get started. When I add in more travel and tractor fuel, this job used about $150 in fuel. What this forces me to do is find several jobs I can do on Saturday and Sunday and stay over at the hunt camp so I avoid the two hours of drive time and associated fuel for each brush hogging job. 

How Many Acres Can You Brush Hog In An Hour?

From watching YouTube videos and applying my experience, I estimated 2 acres per hour. What is the difference between 2 acres per hour and more or less acreage per hour? There are many factors that you are already aware of. If you are in the tractor business you already have a sense of terrain, vegetation and weather. I hustled to get this job done knowing it was going to rain for 3 days. This has the potential to create very muddy conditions that will degrade the customers land and possibly enable me to get stuck. This property had a bowl in the middle that I cut early in case the rains were so heavy that the ground become saturated. Another big factor how many acres can be brush hogged in an hour is how much backing up you have to do. If are constantly moving back and forth like when land clearing, the pace of work is going to be tremendously slower. 10 acres of that type of work would take days and I would actually switch to hourly billing because the chances of it taking far longer than expected with my current experience level could result in a major financial loss. Next is the terrain. Is the ground flat and smooth or rough? Even if you can go predominately forward, rough terrain is hard on you and requires you go very slowly. I averaged 3.9 MPH when cutting a row. When I hit a tortoise hole, logo or stump, I had to almost stop and crawl forward. If the entire job was at a much slower pace, 5 hours could have easily become 10 or more hours.

The only way to know these things is to see and walk the ground. A satellite image will not show stumps, bumps or mud. Customers are notorious for seeing things differently because they do not know what to look for. As tractor operators we understand the little things that impact our productivity. Some conditions can put you and your equipment at risk. A dead forest might have lots of standing dead trees that can fall if disturbed. Dead logs in dense grass create a very rough ride and are hard on the brush hog. 

Brush Hogging 10 acres Bell Florida

How Much Do I Charge For Bush Hogging 10 Acres?

Using the evaluation variables above I charged $100 per acre anticipating 2 acres per hour of cutting time and 4 hours of travel, prep and unloading and loading for this type of field. This is a middle of the road price point. If this was my primary means of making an living, $125/hr is more realistic. I have taken the time and incurred the expense to be properly and fully insured. This added expense of $2,100 annually has to be passed to customers in the job price. When you add in the fuel cost, maintenance cost, depreciation on the tractor, trailer, and truck, mortgage payment on the tractor, truck and trailer and  food, you see you cannot charge $60/hr and make a living. Note, I didn’t even include your wages to pay yourself. If you want to make $50,000 a year, you have to budget $25/hr in labor and get paid for 40 hours a week. If you work fewer hours you have to charge more per hour to reach your financial goals. If you do not take a realistic approach to how you charge, you will not run a successful business. If you are doing weekend work with a tractor you already have, brush hogging can be a good way to make extra money on the side. 

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