"When matching a mulching attachment to a skid steer or compact track loader, important considerations include available power to the attachment, operator protection and tractor guarding, lifting capacity of the tractor, type of undercarriage (wheels or tracks) and performance expectations," says Mike Slattery, Fecon. "In most cases, this category of equipment is suitable for a steady diet of 3- to 4-in.-diameter material with intermittent processing of 6-in. to 8-in. material."
Ron Peters, product manager with CEAttachments, emphsizes that the most important consideration is to match the hydraulic requirements of the attachment and the machine.
Go with high flow
"We always suggest our clients outfit their high-flow carriers with our attachment when possible," says Francisco Rosales, marketing coordinator at FAE USA Inc. However, the company offers its UML/SSL mulching attachments for both standard- and high-flow skid-steer loaders.
"Production speed greatly depends on available horsepower, the type of hydraulic motor (variable vs. fixed displacement) and the type of cutting tools used," Slattery points out. "Most heads in this class today are being shipped with variable-displacement motors that provide greater performance over fixed displacement.
"When it comes to horsepower, it is important to have a high-flow circuit and at least a 70-hp engine," notes Slattery. "Most current production tractors equipped with high flow have engine options of 70 to 100 hp and high-flow circuits producing appropriate hydraulic horsepower for mulching."
But there's more to consider than engine size and hydraulic flow. "One brand of skid steer may have more or less flow than another. But depending upon pressure, they could offer similar hydraulic horsepower, which is ultimately what counts," explains Slattery.
Hydraulic horsepower is calculated by multiplying flow and pressure, and dividing the product by 1,714. "As a rule of thumb, most people will go for as much horsepower as they can afford, especially for commercial use," Slattery notes. "But there are users – mostly non-commercial – that may be willing to trade off some performance to save on the equipment purchase."
Options for standard-flow loaders
Because standard-flow skid steers are much more common than high-flow machines, many mulcher manufacturers offer attachments specifically designed to maximize standard-flow hydraulic horsepower.
"The hydraulic requirements of the EDGE Mulcher attachment are 16 to 21 gpm and 2,500 to 3,500 psi for running on standard-flow machines," says Peters. "The EDGE Mulcher comes standard with all of the features you would want, including a safety pusher bar, rear chain shield, pressure gauge, relief valve, skid shoes, carbide-tipped teeth, as well as the necessary hoses and flat-face couplers."
A safety pusher bar forces brush or small trees down and allows the mulcher teeth to contact the lower portion of the brush to mulch it. The rest of the plant gets mulched as the machine moves through the working area up to 1-in. below grade.
"The rear chain shield helps contain the debris that has been mulched," explains Peters. "A pressure gauge is located on the back of the mulcher, in view of the operator."
Skid shoes keep the teeth grinding at ground level for a smooth, level mulched surface.
"There are 96 carbide-tipped teeth for long tooth life, smooth operation and fine mulch," notes Peters. "The rotor is designed with six staggered rows of teeth around the rotor circumference. A relief valve in the hydraulic circuit prevents overloading any drive components."
Another option is the self-powered brush shredder attachment. Unlike hydraulic heads, these attachments carry their own engine and will do not impinge on the carrier's hydraulic power. Sneller makes a 60-hp shredder that weighs 2,500 lbs., which is compatible with large skid-steer loaders. The Shredder 60 delivers all 60 hp from its Caterpillar 2.2 engine directly to the cutting head.