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Contemplating a small tractor

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
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2007-08-10          144611


Hi:

I am thinking of getting a tractor. Here is a description of some jobs I do manually now, plus future jobs I envision with the right gear. Maybe you folks could both suggest a suitable tractor size, and suitable or alternative methods of work.

I think 30 to 35HP, 2500 to 3000 pounds, 4WD, geared transmission is about right, but I will defer to you experts.

I collect firewood on my property. I use about 15 face cords per annum. I figure I work about an 8 hour day per face cord by the time I fell the tree, buck it where it falls, use my hand cart to do the 100 or 200 feet to the nearest road access for my F150, load four cartís worth in the pickup, truck it up to my staging area, rough split with wedges and/or maul, stack in drying piles, (months later) load hand cart and stack behind the house, finish split and load into the house. I figure with a tractor I could load up the bucket and dump in to the F150, saving the hand cart work, or possible move the wood in the bucket to the piles for direct stacking if the material is small enough to not need rough splitting. Or I could skid out the trees to the staging area, but I like to do this work in the winter because it is a slower season and it is nice to buck without worrying about hitting the ground or having a dirty log. I can also see given enough time making a skid system such that the tractor can pick up loads from the drying stacks and move them into the wood shed without need to load (either tractor bucket or push cart or truck) and stack again.

I wonder what firewood techniques others might suggest given a tractor and a pickup truck?

You can also take from above that I donít necessarily need the most time efficient machine, just the smallest lowest capital cost machine that will get the job done eventually. I donít necessarily have a lot of work for a tractor, just more work than I can do manually. I seem to fall further and further behind every year. Though I hear that once you have a tractor, new uses make themselves known.

I might be interested in doing some very small scale saw log skidding as I woodwork and have about 20 acres of hard maple. I canít see using more than about 1000BF per annum. Plus it might be nice to square off the small red pines for quick and dirty small building construction material.

I do some small agricultural stuff for personal use and a bit of sharing with friends. I have about 4 acres of field which is of very poor caliber, pretty much sand, and about 2000 square feet of garden plot. I have not done much with the field yet other than have a pigs dig up 100 square feet at a time in a movable pen or ďpig tractorĒ. This idea is failing as without irrigation, I canít plant a cover crop after the pigs do their thing. Plus there are plenty of stones turned up that I have to haul away with the wheelbarrow. Then it takes me an hour to smooth over the areas with a shovel and rake as the pigs tend to level it, but the field slopes about 1 in 20. Also the pen is not very movable given the field slope. The 2WD F150 wonít pull it up hill, and I canít manually move it uphill either.

Iíd like to get the area fenced in as the deer would decimate any crops. Then Iíd like to grow some crops to feed the pigs, and expand the garden area. So I envision using temporary electric fences to rotate the pigs and crops inside the perimeter fencing that would define the 4 acre area. I would like the tractor to help with stone removal, plowing, discing, leveling etc, but not necessarily planting or harvesting. I have a walking seeder that would work well enough on large seed crops like corn for the small area that I would do in any year. Though I might at some point mow alfalfa and similar for winter usage, I donít ever envision keeping more than one sow and a few smaller animals through the winter. Anything bigger scale than that, Iíd buy in the food I think. The pigs would self harvest their share and I would manually harvest the people food.

Just a bit more about fencing. I want to put cedar posts on 50 foot centers with 3 steel posts in between, though I would consider all cedar if the auger worked well enough. So the immediate requirement would be for about 50 post holes. Problem is, from the dozen holes I dug manually, 2 out of 3 holes would dig up a 4 inch or larger (8 to 10 inch) rock. These holes took 2 or 3 hours, the sand (not many of these) holes 15 minutes. Is an auger going to dig the nasty holes effectively, or am I going to end up doing a lot of this manually with my big steel pry bar anyhow?

I have zero need for mowing as the amount of grass I have can be done < 2 hours with a push reel mower.

A backhoe looks interesting as I have a 1000 SF barn that needs the foundation replaced, and my wood shed needs its retaining walls rebuilt. Donít know if these projects would be too small scale to justify the cost of the backhoe. I also see trenching for irrigation piping, maybe 800 feet or so, and the odd buried electrical cable.

I shovel the snow manually to a length of 3 vehicles off the road and then haul groceries etc. between the car and the house with a utility sleigh.. If I had a tractor, I might be tempted to maintain the whole semi-circular driveway of 300 or so feet in the winter. But I might not too. Shoveling by hand that much snow can take the place of a gym membership.

I am trying to establish an orchard, so the tractor could help there also with things like moving the mulch away from the trunks in the fall, and adding new mulch throughout the growing season, and maybe with harvesting.

I donít envision much loader work that involves shuttling back and forth. The loader would be used more for moving things like harvested stones and bucked firewood. I think I would be a good candidate for a geared transmission over hydrostatic, but I am open to persuasion either way.

I can see using a scraper to maintain the bush roads.

I want to build some stone walls.

I want my tractor to fit into an 8x12 foot building. Anything bigger needs a building permit and drawings, so it would take longer to do the paperwork than to build the structure. Yes ... I live in Ontario. If the attachments need a second or third 8x12, that is fine. If it would really need a larger building, I would purchase a kit garage which would presumably come with drawings.

A big concern I have is service. I own no way of moving a tractor long distances and the closest dealership of any brand would be about 100 miles. My F150 is unlicensed so never leaves the property. I have no desire to pay to keep a truck on the road. So it would either cost me $500+ to rent someone to transport, or it had better not break down too often, or I better learn to fix it myself. I do have a truck mechanic buddy up the road, but frankly he is a busy guy, so I wouldnít want to depend on him. I have no idea whether this suggests old technology say 8N up to 70s vintage which are presumably dead simple, or taking tender loving care of a newer modern tractor.

As for cost, Iíd rather not spend $30,000, but I can certainly do so if that much money buys me 35 years worth of tractor whereupon, being 80 years old, the race is on to see if I or the tractor dies first.

I have some physical issues that might rule in or out certain tractors. I am 6'3" tall with size 15 feet.

That is all I can think of for now. Iíll keep reading through the archives, but if anyone has any comments I would be most appreciative.

Boulter

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candoarms
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1932 North Dakota
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2007-08-11          144613


Boulter,

Thank you for the great letter. Welcome to the group, Sir!

In no way do I pretend to be an expert on tractors, but I am an expert at getting equipment running in extremely cold weather!

I could easily provide you with a list of tractors that I believe will handle the tasks you mentioned, plus some, but I don't believe that would be the best place to start.

Let me start with your shed.

Will it be heated? If not, will you have electrical power in your shed? If the answer to both questions is "NO......no heat, no electrical power", then I might suggest that you stay away from any diesel powered tractor.

Let's start there. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Joel ....

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greg_g
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1816 Western Kentucky
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2007-08-11          144615


I was going to mention the shed too. You might have to rethink that 8x12 idea, due to the height of the entrance. Assuming R1 or R4 tires, that will limit your choice in the 30-35hp range considerably. ROPS, canopies, and vertical exhaust pipes can often be in the seven foot range. If you're considering a cab, they're even taller.

And 30-35hp is smack dab in the middle of the CUT size range. So your physical size is going to be a factor here. I'm only 6'/200# with size 11 boots. But I'm much much more comfortable working my 45hp tractor than I am my 35hp.

//greg// ....

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kleinchris
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 269 Westminster, Texas
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2007-08-11          144619


Boutler, I might respond a few times. Are you pretty remote? That 12x8 barn might be a problem, as even 25 hp tactors come in at 12'- stick a hoe on there and you hanging out the back end. ....

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kleinchris
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 269 Westminster, Texas
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2007-08-11          144620


A lot of dealerships offer package deals: (35hp tractor, auger, brush hog, and 16' trailer= $x) Sometimes you can save a $1000 buying all this stuff you will eventuallt want.) Most come with brush hogs, but most dealers will let you trade the hog for something else you might need. Maybe you could talk them into a tiller for all your sod busting. ....

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Art White
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 6877 Waterville New York
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2007-08-11          144623



I think you are doing well on your initial size of tractor for the potential work load. I don't see a need to get into a deluxe tractor although nice on features they sometimes give additional frustrations with with basic work when they break.
The Kubota L-3400 or L-4400 would be a good choice for this type work and give a good base to start from. They are some of the best cold weather starting engines made even after many hours of use which would be a plus for your climate.
It's already been mentioned about buying and being able to buy at a better price if multiple pieces are purchased and wih the end of the sseason fast approching it's that much better for you! ....

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
TractorPoint Premium Member -- 5 Tractors = Very Frequent Poster

2007-08-12          144628


Hi Guys:

Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, I can't read them today. $20 a year is actually not a bad price for a useful service, but there doesn't seem to be a credit card option any more so I have to figure out this paypal business.

This could take a while as I think I have technical difficulties also with my phone line. The connection was upo and down like a yo-yo the other day, and then last night there was no dial tone, but this morning it was working again.

Disappointedly yours, but hopefully back soon

Boulter ....

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Contemplating a small tractor

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candoarms
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1932 North Dakota
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2007-08-12          144630


Boulter,

There's a way around this problem. Click on "Size Tractor Needed" at the top of this page. You'll be able to read the replies without purchasing a subscription.

Joel ....

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candoarms
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1932 North Dakota
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2007-08-12          144631


Boulter,

Provided you've figured out how to read all of the replies, I'd like to point a few things that are very important to any tractor owner.

Simple and routine maintenance is very important. Those who have never owned a tractor before, will likely not have the basic tools necessary to maintain one.

For example, an air compressor, air hose, and a blow gun to keep the radiator and hood vents clear of dirt and debris, as well as for keeping the tires inflated to the proper levels. If you don't own an air compressor, I highly recommend this important tool.

There are many issues that we need to discuss. I hope you figure out how to read the replies.

Joel ....

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
TractorPoint Premium Member -- 5 Tractors = Very Frequent Poster

2007-08-12          144640


Hi again:

Well thanks candoarms with the tip on getting the whole message. Don't know why it works, but it did. Hopefully the phone line can hold out ...

Yes, Mr. White, the L3400 is in my sites as a candidate. Being green, it is not clear to me yet what one gets with say a L3130 or L3240 over the L3400.

Seems that my proposed shed size is unlikely to be satisfactory according to a number of you. One thing though, nothing says the walls can't be 10 feet high if I need a 8 foot door. It might look strange, but I am immune to cosmetic issues - I go for functionality. It needs to be under 108 square feet for the kind folks in the building dept. to leave me alone. I wonder if something like 7 x15 feet would still sneak in on the width, yet give a few more feet of length to get the backhoe in.

Speaking of backhoe, does it sould like I have enough jobes lined up to economically justify one? I don't really know what they are worth, but $5000 comes to mind.

I am working on my workshop and a compressor would be in the cards eventually. I have a fair selection of tools and will soon have a decent place to work, but my background is more electrical than mechanical. While the rest of you were doing cars in your youth, I was doing ham radio ... I could conceivably locate a tractor shed behind the workshop and run an extension cord out to it if nothing else to help with winter starting. Of course, with my new backhoe, I'll be able to dig a trench for a wire fairly easily.

Another option for storage would be the upstairs of the barn, but the foundation is dodgy. It is a bank barn and the three sides underground are buckling about 4 inches from straight.

Greg_g, what kind of size related issues do you notice on your smaller machine as compared to the larger one. Might I need to step up the size just to get adequate comfort? Or is it more of an issue working all day as opposed to an hour here and there.

I'd be real interested to hear some comments on the distance to the dealership issue (and my lack of trailering capacity). Does this speak to the issue of modern vs 8N vintage tractors? Or with a modern tractor am I likely to go a decade between trips to the dealer with good preventative maintenance and my expected usage level?

Regards,

Boulter ....

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greg_g
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1816 Western Kentucky
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2007-08-12          144642


It's a matter of access and comfort. You need only walk through a used tractor lot to see that there are levers and controls everywhere. From one tractor to the next, they may be in different locations. But one theme remains constant; there are a lot of them. The smaller the tractor, the more congested the layout of these controls and levers. It makes it hard to get on and off, and in some cases hard to even find a comfortable place to put your feet. Start adding things like loaders and backhoes, and now you're adding hydraulic levers/controllers/hoses to the congestion. In many cases, the location of the joystick controller will limit your mounting dismounting to the opposite side.

So besides bigger being equated to more power - and obviously more work - bigger also equates to more room to move around on/to/through the operator position while you're doing it.

And personally, I think it's a mistake NOT to have a trailer of sufficient size to haul your tractor. You'll soon be surprised at how many other uses you can find for a reasonably sized trailer. Consider looking for a package deal that INCLUDES a trailer.

//greg// ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7141 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2007-08-13          144648


Boulter, I don't know where in central Ontario you are, but I think we're neighbours, relatively speaking. ;)

I think there's a LOT of other things you will find so much easier with a small tractor than you've already thought of now.

Bear in mind, with 'chore work' the size of the tractor has more to do with how FAST you get the job done than IF you can get the job done in the first place. Even a very small machine is capable of some impressive work.

If you're close enough I'd be more than happy to help you out with some guidance of which dealer will set you straight locally and who to watch out for. I know the north of Toronto area up to say the Muskoka area very well, it's my back yard so to speak.

Either reply to me here or or via the "Email Murf" link below my name.

Best of luck. ....

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greg_g
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1816 Western Kentucky
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2007-08-13          144653


Murf, for clarification - that last response of mine was related to his request for input relative the the SIZE OF THE OPERATOR. He's a big fella with even bigger feet, and it can get pretty congested in the operator area of a CUT - especially one that's FEL and BH equipped as he suggests.

//greg// ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7141 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2007-08-13          144654


I saw that Greg, but I meant more along the lines of the size of the machine relative to the amount of horsepower. Not the physical size of the tractor itself.

For instance, a Kubota (only using the reference because I'm most familiar with them) L2800 and a B7800 are the same horsepower, but very different in size.

Just trying to point out that there are lots of options to this newcomer.

Best of luck. ....

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
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2007-08-15          144696


Hi Guys:

Murf, I visited the new Holland and Kubota dealerships in Lindsay on Monday. I was more or less going by, so took the opportunity. I am actually located 30km east of Bancroft.

The Kubota outfit didn't have a L3400 out, so I tried a M5000 (?) just to see what the manual gearing is like. It was also about the same sizing with regards to fitting me he said. It seemed a little cramped, but feasible as long as I am not planning to sit in the thing for a living. I then sat in a B7800. That unit is a complete non-starter. My knees only cleared the underside of the steering wheel by about a half inch.

Over at the new Holland dealership, I sat in a TC35 and a TC30. The 35 with tilt and extendible steering wheel had greater possibilities to personal comfort, but not sure I'd spend $6K more to get it. The TC30 seemed to fit me much the same as the M5000, perhaps a little worse.

I got some quotes, and I had the impression that the numbers were high compared to our American friends. I am wondering if they are priced at the middle 80s Canadian dollar of a year ago, and by next year the current mid 90s dollar will work its way through the inventory.

We discussed post hole digging in rocky areas and both dealerships suggested a hydraulic model would have better chances- price $3.5K vs $1.4K for PTO I think it was. Either one would be a rough go of it around here, so maybe post holes will be dug around here with a compination of manual techniques and the backhoe. I wonder if a spear cound be fitted to a backhoe such that when I manually dig with the clamshell and hit a rock, the spear can go down the hole and pop it loose. Or maybe I just am going to have to dig 4 foot diameter holes with the hoe and fill them in again. This is disappointing as I was really hoping that mechanization would get me 50 holes lickity split.

Anyhow, that's my report. I got the literature and have a few technical questions. I'll search the archives for some answers, as I am sure they are there somewhere.

Thanks again for the replies.

Boulter ....

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Contemplating a small tractor

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7141 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2007-08-15          144698


Boulter, given your location, I'm assuming then that the screen name is related to the road and or village name? I know the area well, our family summer place is at Carnarvon and being a pilot I'm up that way quite a bit, Stanhope and such.

Anyways, if your size is such that those machines are a little too cozy for you, I would suggest you get into a couple of mid-sized (40 - 65 hp) North American tractors and see the difference. It doesn't sound like a little more tractor would hurt any in your case, and for bush work and things like that, you will like the extra heft of the bigger unit.

Unless you plan on some serious off-roading work, a 2WD tractor with GOOD tire chains will go almost any where, especially if the ground is frozen, or at least very firm, they are not great in mud.

Also, if you plan on using it for snow removal, you will have a better shot at finding something priced better with a cab on it.

I don't know what you've budgeted for a tractor, but I can tell you, you will get a REALLY nice used 2WD 'chore tractor' for about half the price of a new TC35.....

As for your post holes, how well do you know the guy with the local septic tank truck? A water tank, a pressure washer and a septic tank truck (honey wagon) will have those post holes done in a few hours.

Best of luck. ....

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
TractorPoint Premium Member -- 5 Tractors = Very Frequent Poster

2007-08-16          144747


Hi Murf:

Intersting idea, pressure washer drilled post holes. I do actually know a guy, but I don't think his truck would have access to where I need to go. I am going to keep this idea in the back of my head though ...

Yes, Boulter is one of the local population centres, a few dozen people. Fort Stewart is actually closer, but we say we are in Boulter.

I am not married to the idea of a new 4WD tractor, so certainly your suggestion of a used agricultural 2WD tractor is still in contention. I figure I have 6 months or a year to raise the funds and understand all the issues.

Back to my regularly scheduled reading in the archives ...

Boulter ....

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ihookem
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 49 Allenton, Wisconsin
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2007-09-07          145491


Boulter, are you crazy? You should have gotten a tractor years ago! And you are 80 years old? Shoveling snow by hand? Lifting wood into the truck? Moving stones and digging holes by hand? HUH? The smallest tractor with a loader beats all this by hand. Anyway post hole diggers don't work when it hits a rock. You will need a back hoe or dig by hand. A good point on this thread is go with a big used 2wd ag tractor. They are everywhere and don't hold the value of a compact tractor. Good idea! That got me thinking of 2 old brothers that lived together in norhern Wisconsin. They had a 50 horse or so and it plowed snow like nothing, even 2 feet at a time. I It was a wierd gren color, A Duetz, maybe an Oliver. Had a loader and they would ram the big piles of cut fire wood till the loader was full, then dumped it close to the house and us 30 year old (kids) would help load it in the garage. Going through the woods won't be so easy though cause they are bigger. Go on tractorhouse.com and look at all kinds of tractors and you might get some good ideas. By the way, with all that sand, grow carrots and sparagus. But pigs? Are they even worth the stink? I grow Cornish Cross chickens. They are easy, taste so good it's unbelievable and after eight weeks they are in the freezer. Later, Steve. ....

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Boulter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 7 Central Ontario
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2007-09-19          145892


Hi:

I am not 80 years old. I think I made some comment about running a tractor UNTIL I am 80 years old in about 35 years time.

I am still here quietly in the background. I am reading about tractors. Got a few books by mail order.

I currently have my neighbour's 8N to do a small job. I don't really fit it well as my left knee when operating the clutch just misses the stearing wheel. It is a real PITA being my size, and I am the runt of the family.

Seems the key issue for me is if I decide that I want a hoe. If I do, then this forces me to go with a newer tractor as the older ones really aren't up to the task unless one is very mechanically inclined. Otherwise as suggested in this thread, a 2WD ag tractor will probably do just fine.

Cheers

Boulter ....

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crunch
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 264 Niagara County, NY
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2007-09-19          145895


If you never have a hoe you may not miss it. If you get one, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. ....

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EGasoos
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 6 Bremen
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2015-08-28          193453


So your physical size is going to be a factor here. I'm only 6'/200# with size 11 boots. But I'm much much more comfortable working my 45hp tractor than I am my 35hp. ....


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