“Grooming mower vs. flail mower vs. rotary cutter, which is best for me?” Compact tractor owners often ask us what is the right mower for their application. There are several factors that determine this decision.
Grooming mowers (often also referred to as finish mowers or finishing mowers) are typically designed for mowing in well manicured lawns such as homes, sports fields and golf courses. These mowers often are equipped with fixed blades that rotate at speeds that range anywhere between 10000 and 18000 fpm. The fixed blade design on grooming mowers allows the grass leaf to be cut rather than torn. This in turn means less yellowing of the leaf and an overall healthier lawn.
Tractor mounted grooming mowers are tipically available in sizes that vary between 4′ and 20′. These types of mowers are also often available with rear or side discharge depending on the users preference. Most grooming mower manufacturers designed their mowers so that the cutting height can be adjusted through the caster wheels from a minimum of 1″ to a maximum of around 4 to 5″.
Operators of these units appreciate the fast and easy maintenance as most of these mower decks have belt driven transmissions and three blades that are quickly replaceable.
Grooming mowers often can be equipped with mulching kits to help further reduce the size of the grass clippings. When mowing with a grooming mower you normally want to avoid cutting over 1/3 of the total length of the grass leaf at one time as this will weaken the grass plant.
Flail mowers are often used for commercial mowing applications or for mowing in vineyards and orchards. Most flail mowers typically cut “against the grain” and therefore will throw all clippings up and around the rotor before discharging them towards the ground. Forcing the clippings to go up and around the rotor means that the flails (the blades on the mower) have time to cut grass clippings many times before dropping them behind the rotor.
Flail mower widths usually range between 4′ and 20′. Cutting height adjustment normally varies from 3/4″ to 6″ and is usually done through the back roller.
Flail mower operators will often tell you that these mowers tend to do a better job mowing tall grass and even mowing in wet conditions.
When it comes to replacing blades, flail mowers typically require more maintenance as each rotor is equipped with dozens of blades that are individually bolted to the rotor.
Rotary cutters (often also referred to as brush hogs) are designed for cutting down thick pasture grass and small tree saplings anywhere between 1″ and 3″ depending on the grade of the unit you purchase. A rotary cutter is truly a farm implement and therefore it is not meant for refined mowing but rather for controlling overgrowth around the perimeter of your property. Rotary cutters are often used to mow areas that often do not get cut more than once or twice a year. The nature of these types of mowers is primarily to knock down the material without too much concern of appearances, therefore expect to see thick and rough looking remains after the mower has passed through.
Rotary cutters normally have their height adjustment set through the tail wheel and usually ranges anywhere from 1″ to 10″.
The transmission on rotary cutters is extremely simple as the gearbox is normally connected directly to the rotor which in turn usually has two swinging blades mounted to it. The swinging blades are ideal for tearing thick brush and will be able to fold backwards in case they impact hard objects that are to thick to be cut.
Rotary cutters usually require little maintenance as the simple design of the machine normally means that the blades are the only parts that usually require replacing or sharpening.
All three are vastly different types of mowers and you may find out that you will need two out of three or all three of these mowers around your property. Flail mowers and grooming mowers usually offer you a more manicured looking lawn while rotary cutters can handle rougher mowing conditions but sacrifice appearances.