The prospect of clearing your land of overgrown grass, weeds, and other plant life is always daunting. Perhaps the most intimidating aspects are the required effort, time scale, and costs of such an endeavor. Bush hogging is a common solution to overgrown fields. But, just how much and how long to bush hog an acre?
It generally takes a professional 1 hour to bush hog an acre, whereas for the novice it could take from 1.5 to 2 hours. The cost depends on the thickness of the trees and brush to be cleared as well as the terrain of the property. In general, it will cost between $60 and $90 per acre.
Today we will be looking at these aspects, as we zoom in on the process of bush hogging. Join in as we discuss the general going rates for brush clearance and the factors that influence those figures. We will also talk about how long it typically takes to bush hog an acre, so you know what you to expect when you seek out the service. Let’s get started.
Bush Hogging Rates
Let’s start with finance. This can change depending on several factors. One of the most decisive factors is the maturity and thickness of the brush. The thicker and denser it is, the more it will likely cost. How much does it cost to have your property bush hogged?
With all of these factors in mind, for an acre of bush hogging you should expect to pay around:
- $60-$75 per hour for basic bush hogging
- $70-$90 per hour for brush hogging
- $90-$150 per hour for light land clearing
- $200-$350+ per hour for heavy land clearance
Let’s clarify this just a bit more. Here is a chart that describes what is meant by the different levels of bush hogging you can expect to be charged for. Again, this is with an acre of work as a basis.
|Basic bush hogging||Removal of dense overgrown grass and light shrubbery||$70|
|Brush hogging||Dense grass, shrubs, and saplings up to 2 inches thick||$80|
|Light land clearing||Most vegetation except mature trees||$120|
|Heavy land clearing||All vegetation including mature trees and forestry mulching||$275|
What if were to dive a little deeper into the cost bush hogging requires for an acre or more? What would it look like then? Well, as with most things, it depends. Several factors can influence the rate bush-hogging contractors charge.
Contractor Choice Can Affect Bush Hogging Rates
The first is probably the contractor or bush hogging service in question. Different operators might work with different rates because of their equipment needs, operator skill level, or some other variable. Also, while higher levels of competition may regulate pricing, companies with strong reputations or local monopolies can still have free reign to charge what they like.
Job Location And Bush Hogging Costs
Another pricing factor that comes into play before the actual job is the distance the contractor will have to travel to get to the job site. The greater the distance, the more fuel needed to haul tractors and bush-hogging equipment to your property…which means a higher price for you.
Of course, the job itself is the biggest factor.
The Type Of Job: Bush Vs Brush Vs Clearing
First, it’s important to note that many people nowadays use the term “bush hogging” as an umbrella term for any job that requires the clearing of mass vegetation.
However, there are a few differences that may reveal themselves through price differences. This is a common point of contention between contractors and customers. For instance, a contractor might quote a customer for basic bush hogging, only to visit the site and discover that it actually needs brush hogging or land clearance.
Bush hogging, in the strictest sense, is the clearing of heavy grass and small wild shrubs. Generally, bush hogging has minimal strain on equipment and requires basic expertise. As such, it is usually cheaper than the other jobs that are referred to as “bush-hogging”.
Brush hogging is also thrown under the “bush hogging” umbrella. However, brush hogging actually involves the clearance of heavier vegetation such as bushes and small seedlings that can be about 2-4 inches thick.
As you probably guessed, brush hogging involves more labor, expertise, and (sometimes) more machinery than regular bush hogging, so you can expect to pay more. If you’re in the “misquote” scenario outlined above your contractor might charge you extra if they have to bring in different equipment.
Another task that is also thrown into the bush-hogging arena is land clearance. Land clearance involves the removal of all vegetation on a site. Grass, shrubs, bushes, seedlings, and even full-grown trees fall under land clearance.
All other things being equal, land clearance is the most expensive form of “bush-hogging”. Not only will the variation in vegetation cause the work to take longer, but more labor and expertise may be required.
Land clearance might also require the use of additional tools and equipment. Modern rotary cutters might be able to cut through tree stems up to 4 inches thick but, for bigger trees, you will need some seriously heavy-duty equipment. Forestry mulchers, for example, can handle trees with 12-20-inch trunks but, as you guessed…they won’t come cheap.
Equipment Wear And Tear
All three hogging variations may have other factors that influence the rate you must pay.
Wear on equipment is one of them. Conditions and obstacles can have a direct influence on machine wear and tear. Rocks, tree stumps, hidden holes in the ground, etc. are just some of the obstacles that can damage a rotary cutter during operation. Wet vegetation also results in faster wear and tear.
Terrain Can Affect Bush Hogging Cost
The terrain in question is another consideration, particularly when it comes to how long a job will take. Wet ground, for instance, will take longer to clear than dry ground. The same goes for steep terrain, which is more challenging than flat ground.
Discounts For More Acreage
Other contractors may charge you per acre hogged. The prices may vary depending on most of the factors outlined above. However, a lot of contractors give discounts for more acreage. This means that your quoted price per acre may be higher for one acre than it would be for 10 acres.
A very rough estimate for a lot of bush-hogging contractors would be about $50-$70 per acre (basic bush hogging). Heavy brush hogging and forestry mulching will cost you significantly more.
One overlooked factor when it comes to hogging rates is your relationship with the contractor. A lot of commercial outfits are run by local families or even sole traders rather than faceless corporations. Maintaining cordial relations or being a loyal customer might see you earn a few favorable discounts from time to time.
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How Often Should A Field Be Bush Hogged?
If you have a tract of land that needs bush or brush hogging, how do you determine how often it should be done each year? What is a standard practice for how many times per year to bush hog a field?
For areas away from homes, one bush hogging per year is perfectly fine. If you wish to keep down a field within view of or next to residential areas, two times per year is usually plenty. Any more than this and it may be a situation where a one time clearing and regular mowing is needed.
Much of what your decision will be based on here is preference. If you want to keep down the cost of each cutting and make the field less ‘wild’ in its appearance, then 2 times per year will more than likely do the trick.
For a field that you simply want to keep under control, but a more natural look is just fine, then once per year will more than likely be all that you need.
If two times per year seems like it is not enough for your tastes, it may be time to consider tilling and flattening the land in preparation for seeding and eventual mowing.
How Much Money Can You Make Bush Hogging?
There are those that try to do this sort of work full time and it is possible to make a modest living at it if you are willing to cover a large geographical area with your quoting. This can also depend on competition in the area. If the situation is right for you, what can you expect to make bush hogging?
Full time bush hogging can gross $60,000 to $80,000 per year with net profits in the range of $40,000 to $60,000 per year. The net amount takes into account the equipment, labor, and other costs associated with a large machine operated business.
The one important aspect that needs to be discussed here is competition and areas size. Small one man crews doing only basic lawn maintenance can easily make the same amount of money for one simple reason, volume. There are hundreds of thousands of yards to mow in and around even medium sized cities.
For a comparison, there may be a couple hundred fields that need bush hogging in an exponentially larger area. This means that to make the same money as a guy, a pickup, and a couple small pieces of lawn equipment, a bush hogging setup would have to travel much more and have many more customers.
This is because of the frequency of the cuttings each will need each year and the prices they are willing to pay. Frankly, if a farmer has a lot of this type of work to be done, he will simply buy his own equipment and save in the long run.
Bush hogging is usually a side job done by larger landscaping crews with owners that have put in the investment for the equipment. Others that do it as side jobs are excavation contractors, irrigation contractors, or farmers in the area.
It can be done as a full time job if it is treated like a business and enough regular yearly or biyearly customers are found. Yet, mostly it will be a part time addition to another business that brings in more like $30,000 per year and operated when other more lucrative work is out of season or in a lull.
If you are interested in adding bush hogging as a full time business or an addition to you already established one, I would recommend a general understanding of entreprenuarship as well as starting and running a small business. My suggestion is the simple overview found in Starting a Business All-in-One For Dummies (available from Amazon).
After you have a general understanding of how to run a business and not a hobby, it just takes experience and getting back up when you get knocked down.
How Long Does It Take To Bush Hog 1 Acre?
The time it takes to hog an acre depends on several factors, many of which we’ve already discussed. Not every acre is the same, so to establish your estimated work time you should look at:
- The equipment in question (number of tractors involved, tractor power, size of cutter, number or cutter spindles)
- The conditions (weather, soil moisture, vegetation moisture, vegetation height, and density)
- Terrain (gradient, bumps, obstacles)
- The type of vegetation
- Operator expertise
While these factors are all important, we’d say the equipment in question is arguably the best basis for an estimation. Small single-spindle cutters will almost always take more time than large cutters with more spindles. Likewise for tractors with low power output.
The terrain and conditions cannot be ignored either. Hogging on a wet incline, for instance, will take longer than hogging a flat dry field. Tractor speed, navigation of obstacles, and vegetation resistance are all affected by these two factors.
How Many Acres Can Be Bush Hogged In An Hour?
So, lets get down to the brass tax. How long does it normally take for bush hogging at the basic level to get done? What can you hold a contractor to or estimate for yourself when it comes to bush hogging for an hour?
All in all, you can expect a lone professional to hog an acre in about an hour. For the amateur it could take an hour and a half up to two hours to complete the same acre. For larger brush, mature trees, and other large clearing, an acre could take between 2 and 4 hours.
Like was stated above, there are different levels of clearing. There is bush and brush hogging, and there is land clearing. The larger the obstacles and material that needs to be cut or moved, the longer an acre will take.
The Final Touches On Bush Hogging Acres…
So, to bush hog an acre, it usually takes a professional around an hour. The cost is in the neighborhood of $70. When there are larger brush and trees in the area, the time and the price can go up exponentially.
The terrain, distance, weather, and many other factors can also come into play.
If you are planning on doing this as a business, be warned that the only barrier to entry is owning or renting the equipment. Competition for the limited amount of customers could rise quickly if word gets out that you are becoming successful. It is a good idea to diversify into other similar areas and use bush hogging as one of the revenue streams.
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