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Clearing 20+ac. grub or mulch?

Discussion in 'General Industry Questions' started by ironjunkie, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. ironjunkie

    ironjunkie Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to make a pasture out of wood's that has always been woods. I had envisioned just grubbing everything and win rowing the larger rocks (that I have a ton of). One of my concerns is that I really have only 4-5" of poor wood's dirt - topsoil on top of sand/gravel and got to thinking that it might be better to mulch everything rather than disturbing what little top soil I have. The woods have been cut (hard) about 10-12 years ago and mostly under 8". Hardwoods over 5-6" will be firewood. The condition's and rocks have me thinking that an excavator with a mulching head will be the best machine, and there is a place not too far away that has en EX-200 set up with a Bradco head for rental @ $3700/wk.
    I could grub & burn with the equipment I have but think that I'll have to spend years and a lot of hauled in manure & chickenchit to get any cow grass growing disturbing my already fragile & poor top soils.
    What do you guy's think? I've done plenty of bush hogging brush, but never used a "mulcher" and have only a guess at the time it will take with a relatively small cut of mulching head and grinding it down to a point it will break down and add to the soils.
    My "plan" originally started out as clearing about 40ac.
     
  2. td25c

    td25c Senior Member

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    I would think hard about clearing it if the soil is that poor and have a good stand of trees .

    Some ground is better left " as is " growin trees .

    As far as clearing woods to make pasture for livestock ......... If it wont " cash flow " my advice would be don't do it .;)
     
  3. Jonas302

    Jonas302 Senior Member

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    From what I see mulching with the skidsteer if the woods is as thick as ours around here you wont be growing good grass for years with all the chips covering the ground It will take plenty of time and nitrogen applied to get pasture
     
  4. RZucker

    RZucker Senior Member

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    Put in as many cows as you think the ground can handle and call it good. There's not much you can do with soil that thin. Cows can browse on good tree leaves too. My grandfather ran cows on ground with Birch and Aspen and the critters kept the trees looking nice and even.
     
  5. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    Mulch it with an excavator/mulcher. One of my clients put me onto this trick when mulching for pasture. Rough cut it then throw grass seed over the mulch.Do another pass over with the mulcher doing the finish cut and it runs the seed in. I'll guarantee you this method is by far the very best way of achieving good pasture with zero erosion.
     
  6. ironjunkie

    ironjunkie Well-Known Member

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    I think I'll be doing it with the rental ex/mulcher. I have over 700 ac. and there's plenty of woods left to be woods, but not an acre of grassland (except the yard around the house). Building the soil will be a long term project, and it won't support as many animals per acre as I'd like, but I can't eat trees:D
     
  7. hetkind

    hetkind Senior Member

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    I would have few concerns with your project...goats are better than cows on marginal land and soils, a heavy layer of mulch with take a few years with heavy fertilizer to break down into soil. And the mulch will suck all the nitrogen out of the soil for YEARS. And the stumps...either you have to cut the LOW so you can mow over them, and if it was heavily logged from mature timber, then the stumps could be massive and require something bigger than my JD450B shovel loader to easily remove.

    So, if I HAD to make this land more productive for the least amount of money, I would first put a good fence up, 4" cattle wire is my preferred for goats since they will clean both sides of it, put goats on the property, drop the trees and let them eat the brush and tops, while planting clover and fescue as cover crops, learn how to milk the goats for cheese and Boar goats for the Hispanic meat trade. And the goats will eat the stump sprouts!

    And yes, I had Boar goats in Texas, they did a wonderful job at maintaining pasture.

    Howard
     
  8. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    I have never been east of the Mississippi but I wonder how much Hispanic meat trade there is in Maine....

    However the market for foofy cheeses might be more established.
     
  9. treemuncher

    treemuncher Senior Member

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    Occupation:
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    I've looked at the same rental machine that you are considering. My wife is from Washington County in Maine and we are purchasing some property up there to flip. I've looked all over for rental equipment to do the work with. Slim picken's......

    If the Hitachi 200 is as impressive with the Bradco cutter as was the Komatsu 200 that was locally demonstrated, I would pass. The saleman was very impressed with his machine - but his job is to sell anything regardless of if it is good or not. The amount of production that they got in 20 minutes on a large tree stump (10' tall x 20" diameter) with that set up - they did not get through a third of it in that amount of time. Back then, my hoe with the 170 hp hydraulic source would have taken out everything from that tree within the first 10 minutes. Now, with 300 hp, larger pump and a high torque cutterhead, that time would be cut just about in half. Trying to run a cutterhead on just the excavator hydraulic system is a slow process and you should not intend to cut anything over 3"-4" diameter maximum if you want to be productive. Remember that the cutter will be robbing power from all other normal hoe functions which slows down everything. At $3,700 per week, I don't see it as a cost effective method with this machine. You might also have to figure in the cost of a set of teeth during the rental as some rental companies do with these cutters - add about $3,500 or so to cover that cost.

    It all comes down to size, species, density and terrain when estimating these jobs. If you stick to 3" and smaller material with this rental machine, you might do ok on production rates. I would not expect much over 1.0-1.5 acres per day with this machine as configured. Add in operator learning curve and that figure can drop significantly. You might be wise to get a quote from a contractor that runs this type of machine on a daily basis and compare that pricing to rental costs. Expect LOTS of breakdowns with a cutter system - that is my daily life even though I own it, I run it and I repair it. 10-20 gallons of diesel per hour is normal depending on which machine I am running during the day and how heavy the cutting is. So far, my largest tree cut with the hoe was a 60"+ diameter cypress. I also processed a 3' and 4' cypress that same day.
    As for the chips on poor soils, they will enrich the soils. I have 0"-6" of topsoil on top of red rock gravel or sands on my property and locally. My customers and I have good luck spreading grass seed down directly on top of the chip bed (I like the rough in - seed - finish cut idea) in order to establish pastures quickly. Add an aqueous solution of ammonia nitrate to burn down the chips faster and lime to counter the acidity in order to speed up grass establishment. Without chemicals, KY 51 fescue will normally take hold in heavy chips ok but will not really flourish and thicken until the third year. I almost never slash and burn any more. Why waste a precious resource that can build topsoils and increase organic matters? There is no requirement for erosion fencing or other environmental BS when mulching as it protects the soils as we work.

    Here is a pic of my hoe ( a Komatsu PC200) starting a levee job in some fairly heavy timber. Anything good enough for the loggers (14"+ and straight) was pulled out and taken to market. I chewed up everything else in my path.
    14425442_340742146262687_1464598611478028385_o.jpg

    Loggers left me this to clean up...
    14712579_349869965349905_2579541115301900793_o.jpg

    Finish picture of the Big Sandy levee job.
    PA190692a.jpg



    Remember, size is just a matter of time. Without the right tools, the time will never be efficient.
    14310530_335679226768979_6187093614353048619_o.jpg
     
  10. hetkind

    hetkind Senior Member

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    nice, what is your application rate of ammonium nitrate in pounds per acre? That is what really helps enrich the soil by providing the nitrogen.

    Howard
     
  11. Delmer

    Delmer Senior Member

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    I'm with Howard on this one. Unless you want 20 acres of lawn to look at now, and are willing to pay for it, then the mulching isn't needed, or cost effective.

    A steer will eat just as much brush as a goat, he also needs a bunch more grass though, the goat will eat half brush, quarter weeds and quarter grass if he has free choice. Goats (dairy that I've seen, don't know about boer) will NOT eat white or red clover if they have anything else half way attractive, this includes burdock, curly dock etc. You could use this to your advantage by seeding clover with the grass before you go through with whatever you use to remove the big stuff for firewood. You still need to use some nitrogen to get the plants started, but you don't need to use enough to decompose ALL of the wood. As the wood rots the nitrogen is released back to rot more wood, the wood doesn't "rob" nitrogen, it "ties up nitrogen" until the bacteria finish and die. If you get legumes established there will be enough nitrogen for the wood to break down in a reasonable time frame and the pasture to shape up. This is just touching the surface of management. You mentioned cattle pasture, so goats aren't that much different, and will help you get started faster.

    Birken, there's plenty of demand for goat meat just east of the Mississippi here. Plenty of Hispanics, and just about any other ethnic group you can imagine eats goat. The prices aren't what they were a couple years ago, but that's industry wide. I wouldn't focus too much on your sales, start with a small number of goats and maybe some Scottish Highlander cattle, when you've cleared all the pasture you want, hopefully the market will have recovered and you get a good price for the herd you've built up.
     
  12. treemuncher

    treemuncher Senior Member

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    I would have to ask the Ag Ext Agent. He is the one that explained that the fertilizer would burn down the wood chips and that lime would also be needed. I've had a lot of customers just lay down seed alone with good results.
     
  13. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    100% with you on this one treemulcher. I have seen cattle grazing on "new pasture" 3mths after mulching and droppping dung all over it which has plenty of nitogen at bugger all cost
     
  14. treemuncher

    treemuncher Senior Member

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    Pictures of a local cattle farm that I worked on during December 2015. The ground had been clear cut 3-4 years ago so lots of stumps, resprouts and new growth. My customer only put down grass seed (during Dec & Jan) and a mulched fish fertilizer, nothing else. I just started clearing his newest land acquisition yesterday so I was on top of the hill taking a picture of the cattle and ground conditions. Note that the farmer has kept cattle on this ground throughout the new year as soon as it was fenced off. THIS is why I prefer mulching over other methods. Instant customer gratification, little or no mud, minimal erosion problems, better for the environment.

    Note the dead stob on top of the hill. I took yesterday's picture from the top of that hill next to the dead tree. This photo is from the start of the steep section back in 12/2015

    daniels cattle bottom before 2.jpg

    Note the same dead stob to the left. This is growth after 10 months post mulching. We are currently in a 2 month dry spell so the grass is in the worst shape of the year. 10/2016
    daniels cattle bottom.jpg

    Same hillside and bottom right after steep section was completed. 12/2015
    daniels cattle bottom before.jpg

    Start of job on moderate hillside 12/2015
    daniels cattle bottom before 3.jpg

    Finished job on moderate hillside 12/2015
    daniels cattle bottom before 4.jpg
     
  15. hetkind

    hetkind Senior Member

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    And yet, I have seen piles of chips go from steaming to mulch and it has taken years with no added manure or nitrogen.

    Howard
     
  16. Scrub Puller

    Scrub Puller Senior Member

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    Yair . . .

    Okay fellers it looks good but what does it cost, (along with follow up chemical treatments of regrowth) that is the question.

    When I ask about the economics of munchers on this and other forums , no one wants to mention numbers.

    There are obvious advantages to this technology (and I can see the time coming when mulching will be mandatory in some situations) but for running cattle in the country shown in treemuncher's #14 post it's hard to see it paying.

    Cheers.
     
  17. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    OK Scrub, as it seems I'm the only one here from OZ I'll try to answer your questions. There is no one price fits all in this game now cause every job is different, Vegetation size, density, tree species and terrain have to considered before any price can be given.
    So I have a 1.5 metre cut mulcher and in easy country it can travel at 5kms per hour equates to 7500m2 per hour doing a one cut pass. But thats only half the job done so I have to reverse over the same cut to mulch it which means I'm down to 3750m2 an hour and thats the base line I work from. From there with all the other varibles thrown the price goes up on a m2 rate. I have some job photos on facebook, if you want to take a gander CTC Mulching is the place.
    Now for the misnomer about follow up spraying. I have yet to see any land cleared by any method that didn't need follow up spraying. People who don't spray end up giving me and others the job of clearing regrowth.


    PS. My comments are for Ozzie members cause vegetation in different countries may be quite different when cleared. All Australian native speices can copice (reshute).
     
  18. Delmer

    Delmer Senior Member

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    It looks like urea is in the neighborhood of $300/ton, how can that not be the cheapest thing to increase productivity quickly by a huge margin? If you don't believe me, look up carbon to nitrogen ratio for composting. Without nitrogen, you're waiting for wood to weather, not biodegrade. Cows don't produce nitrogen either, they consume protein and waste some of it.
     
  19. Scrub Puller

    Scrub Puller Senior Member

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    Yair . . .

    Thanks Tones. The only number missing is the hourly rate. (Grins)

    There are not many mulchers here but there was a bloke with a Terex CTL munching out the front on a Main Roads job.

    Out of curiosity I asked him for a price on a little patch of Mahogany and wattle near the gate, maybe three parts of an acre, not thick, I could ride through it, trees up to five inches through and twenty five feet tall at most . . . he reckoned for just a thousand bucks he could reduce it all to chips.

    As you say all jobs are different.

    Our country is very light and sandy and I pushed and stacked it after rain in under a day with that 55 hp Chinese tractor for less than a jerry can of fuel.

    To put things into perspective. Around here the going rate for that size tractor slashing is sixty bucks an hour so call it nine hours at sixty plus about another four hours stacking fires brings us to $780.00. So, in the light of that the mulching was pretty reasonable.

    Had the same timber been in tight black soil it would have made no difference to the mulching but I could not have done the job with the equipment I had. Of course if the Terex came in to grub and stack with a bucket it would have been a different thing again . . . it's horses for courses every time.

    In this country if you have your own equipment and can push and grub after rain it is possible to take most of the stuff roots and all and provided you establish some pasture and are prepared to slash occasionally it is not necessary to spray.

    With the black wattle and paperbark a good deep ploughing two or three years after clearing (two or three furrow Ferguson style disk) seems to clear up most of the issues.

    I always read your comments with interest all the best with it.

    Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
  20. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    Hi Scrub, just sent you a PM