When selecting a skid steer or compact track loader to power a mulching head/forestry cutter attachment, Gregg Warfel, district sales manager - compact, Terex Construction Americas, recommends investing in a unit that has the highest hydraulic horsepower available. Hydraulic horsepower is calculated by taking the hydraulic flow times the hydraulic pressure divided by 0.1714.
“The higher the hydraulic horsepower means a faster recovery time for the mulching head, which greatly affects the productivity on the job,” he points out.
The loader should also be equipped to handle for the rigors of a highly challenging work environment. “With Bobcat’s forestry head, you have to get it with the safety package, which protects the operator in the cab and also protects the machine,” says Katie Althoff, product specialist, Bobcat Company.
While the package represents a roughly $10,000 investment, it can substantially reduce the risk of damage and downtime. It includes various types of guarding and debris shields, polycarbonate windows and a 3/4-in. laminated polycarbonate door. “A lot of times when you’re operating a mulching head, debris and pieces of the tree are coming down, especially onto the cab, so the door is bulletproof,” Althoff asserts.
Attachments Tailored to Conditions
Mulching head attachments have come a long way, as well, enabling them to better withstand the abusive nature of their task. In place of a drum style with swinging hammers, today’s mulching head attachments, for the most part, consist of a fixed tool design with several tooth styles to suit the type of material, underfoot conditions and type of chip required, Warfel notes.
“Some mulching head attachments even have the ability to mulch below grade, mixing the wood chips with the top few inches of topsoil for erosion control,” he adds. “This eliminates the need for the contractor to go back and put down other product for the same purpose.”
When it comes to the mulching head, bigger isn’t necessarily better. For example, Althoff notes that Bobcat offers its forestry cutter attachment with a 50- or a 60-in. cutting width. Both are rated to cut trees up to 12 in. in diameter. “The 50-in. [model] is really good if you are just taking down trees because that drum spins up a lot quicker and your recovery time is a lot quicker,” she states. “So you’re able to keep mulching and going more quickly because of the speed of the drum.
“If you’re taking trees down, it’s a lot faster response time,” she continues. “But if it’s more brush, small saplings, that kind of application, wider (60 in.) is going to be better.”
Operator Controls ROI
However, one of the biggest factor affecting return on investment and/or future resale value of the machine is the operator.
“First and foremost, the operator needs to know and understand the capabilities of the machine and operate it appropriately. For example, if you own a 110-hp Terex PT110F compact track loader, an operator cannot expect it to do the job of a 300-hp dedicated mulching machine,” Warfel emphasizes.
Land clearing and deforestation is one of the harshest applications this equipment can encounter. "Proper maintenance is a major factor in extending the life and longevity of any machine used in this type of environment," Warfel states. "Improper maintenance can lead to premature wear of vital components like the undercarriage, to wood debris building up in the engine compartments, which could result in a fire, etc.
"Following the machine manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for maintenance is the best way to get the most from the machine," he adds.