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Excavator for Forestry Mulching

Discussion in 'Excavators' started by vermontfarmer, Aug 22, 2021.

  1. vermontfarmer

    vermontfarmer New Member

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    Hello,
    I've been reading the forum but this is my first post. My father in law is out west hand felling trees currently at a fire in Washington was at the bootleg fire before that. When fire season is over he wants to buy an excavator. Probably in the 20k ton range maybe could go bigger, we can borrow a little kubota for small jobs and my wife and I are planning on splitting the cost with him. He has some ponds and ditches and general farm stuff he would like to use it for.

    Our farm is 312 acres mostly wooded, a bit rocky and some decent slopes that we have been converting to silvopasture for that past few years. Right now we cut by hand and pull out firewood and market logs with a skidder. We have been looking at add a mulcher into the mix to speed up clearing smaller trees and processing the tops faster. As well and clearing some larger branches of trees we are leaving. We also have some road/trail clearing and building to do. We will still be felling larger trees with our chainsaws. We have a new barn foundation to dig, some ditch work, frost free lines trenches.

    I've been reading about how hard mulch heads are on CTL's and how stand alone track machines stand up better. But we really can afford a one purpose machine. We may do a few jobs off the farm with the mulcher to help with payments but most of them would be smaller jobs with selective cutting. We do need a new skid steer/CTL for our normal farm chores like heavy wrapped bales, scrapping bedding etc. But would hate to really shorten its life running a mulch head if an excavator option is just as good or better.

    Are the mulching heads also really rough on excavators?
    I'm thinking it would be better for looking our for rocks or other things sitting up higher in the excavator.
    I would expect it to be able to clear less acreage per day than a purpose built machine, but is there a big difference in what a CTL vs and Excavator can do.
    Are there better manufacturers for running a mulch head then others
    I'm also not exactly sure what our price point will be. It depends on how long he stays out there and how much of a tax write off he wants.
     
  2. Rihpper

    Rihpper Well-Known Member

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    I’m interested to hear what the experts have to say.
     
  3. Gary Layton

    Gary Layton New Member

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    I will be watching this thread, too. I just bought a Takeuchi TB370...new...last month. We have dug out one stump with it but have not put it to work yet. About 2 months ago I bought a Rockhound Defender FX26 mulcher head...it is at the Takeuchi dealer now, with the 370 while they install our thumb. They are going to set up the mulcher head...proper hydraulic flow, program the computer, etc. so it is ready to use.

    Your situation is similar to mine. We have a 90 acre farm in S. GA and need the excavator to maintain pond dams (20 acre pond), canal ditches, bust beaver dams (there are about 24 dams of various sizes on our property and my uncle's adjoining downstream property), log pines off the dams, some grading, etc. We will be draining the pond and after it dries out (at least 6 months to a year, I figure) we will be digging out the muck from the last time it was drained (1975...45 years of silting). The mulcher head will help keep the dam slopes mowed as well as the areas along the pond sides. I don't frequent this forum a lot but I'll try to remember to post up some of our experiences with our mulcher head as we learn to use it.
     
  4. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    My opinion comes from owning and operating a skidsteer with a mulcher. The skidsteer is a compromise between mulching and earthworks. My situation was in 12 months I clocked up 1400 hours but only 30hrs was bucket work so I went to a dedicated machine. The dedicated machine though only 40 hp more could cover twice the ground in the same time with the same width head because of the the pumps worked.
    I have also worked an excavator with a mulcher and it was pitiful even though it was plumbed correctly with the appropriate priority valves. Lots of excavators are fitted with power packs to overcome the deficiencies but I believe there is a better way.
    With some engineering add another pump between the engine and the original pumps. All the excavator pumps keep the same settings so you can still dig dirt. When mulching the engine will work to its maximum available hp which is what you'll need. The other advantage is the excavator remains the same size without the extended tail swing and you're only running 1 engine.
     
    Gary Layton likes this.
  5. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

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    Welcome to the Forums VF and Gary L! Glad to have you.

    VF what is your FIL's budget? I assume ya'll are looking for a 20T excavator? That would be a Cat 316-318 sized machine that will run around $180K new depending on location. The mulcher head would be in addition to that price.
     
  6. John C.

    John C. Senior Member

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    I can only speak from the mechanical side on this subject. I have installed mulchers on excavators and can only say that if you are going to try to run the mulcher with the machine hydraulics, you are looking at trade offs in total machine operation. Motors and pumps on excavators are sized to run the excavator. Any motor hydraulics added to an excavator run into flow and horsepower problems. Running the mulcher means that the speed that something else runs at will be slower and if not plumbed correctly, the other functions will also loose power. We would get the mulcher to work and then listen to the whining about the travel or swing doesn't work so good while the mulcher is running. The cooling systems on excavators are also designed for the excavator itself. There is very little reserve cooling to work with so when the engine and hydraulic coolers are perfectly clean, they might handle the extra flow and heat developed by the mulcher. Put a little bit of dust in the radiators and you will be stopping operation every few minutes and waiting for the systems to cool down. The last thing that comes to mind right now is the modifications to the controls to run the mulcher. You are going to be adding hydraulic control circuits controlled by electronic means which adds a lot of complications to a machine. You have to do it in a way that allows you to swap back and forth between the mulcher and any other things you may want to use on the end of the stick.
    I don't know how many times I've dealt with people that wanted a swiss army knife and didn't understand that everything comes with trade offs.
     
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  7. Rihpper

    Rihpper Well-Known Member

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    The CAT 309 has a separate pump that runs the auxiliary hydraulics. They market it for use with mulchers and mowers... I’m not sure how well it deals with cooling. It’s also only 74hp so no DEF but definitely not a powerhouse. I’m not sure if CAT makes larger excavators with the separate implement pumps.
     
    CM1995 likes this.
  8. Gary Layton

    Gary Layton New Member

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    Good input, John C...thanks. This TB370 has 3 hydraulic circuits. Primary, secondary, auxiliary. There is a LOT I don't know about exes and hydraulics but it's my understanding that I will be able to dedicate a portion of the hydraulic pot to the mulcher and that should help keep things working more efficiently. I know that pot is only so big...hopefully, it is big enough. The mulcher manuf. and the Takeuchi folks say it should all gibe together fine. Time will tell as we work with it
     
  9. John C.

    John C. Senior Member

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    When dangle head log processors came out a lot of people in the logging industry were into saving money by listening to the dealers and manufacturers telling them the size of the processor that would work on their particular model of machine. I'd see a processor designed to work on a 30 ton machine and the owner was told it would work on his 22 ton machine. They would find out that it would work, but just not very fast. A log processor is an intermittent high flow type of machine. A mulcher is a continuous flow type of machine. Be real careful of what you are told about what your machine can handle. The sales people know little about their products and want to maximize their profit by selling more than what your machine can handle.
     
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  10. Gary Layton

    Gary Layton New Member

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    That kind of thing was my concern when I started researching mulcher heads. I saw videos early on where the head I was thinking about was being used on a TB 240. So when I started looking into buying a mulcher the manufacturer told me that wasn't big enough that I ought to use at least a 260. I appreciated his guidance on that and started looking for a 260 after that. But the TB260s were scarce... supply chain issues. When the dealer had a TB 370 I just decided to go ahead and get it. Instead of a 12,000 pound machine it's a 15,000 lb machine so I think it's going to be better suited for this mulcher head... And the hydraulic power available to dedicate to the mulcher is a bit higher on this larger machine. That's the plan anyway... So far it looks good on paper. I just got to get it out in the dirt and in the mud and the bushes and find out. Again thanks for the input.
     
  11. Tones

    Tones Senior Member

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    For your consideration, plumbed and pumped as in my earlier post. Please don't expect your machine run like this.:)
     
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  12. Gary Layton

    Gary Layton New Member

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    Wow...I have watched a lot of mulcher videos...that may be the best showing performance. That's a mac-daddy excavator...35K as near as I can tell.
     
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  13. rbrown225

    rbrown225 Member

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    I have a Cimaf DAH065 mounted on a Tak TB175 with high flow. The trade offs talked about earlier are there. I wired a momentary foot switch to power the mulcher head. I love the machine for ditch banks and steep slopes or when working around tight areas. The rest of the time I use a Cimaf DAF150 on a Bobcat T770 (tier 3). I find that I can cover 4 to 6 times the area with the CTL. Both are cleaned twice a day and greased daily. I have about 800 hours of mulch time on the Tak and about 1600 on the Bobcat no major breakdowns or problems.
     
  14. Snow Farmer

    Snow Farmer Member

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    Not an expert;
    I have a Wacker Neuson ET-90 (9 ton) excavator, as well as digging chores I run an FAE mulcher, model BL30 so its a 30" mulcher.
    I would not classify this combination as suitable for production, but more than adequate for clearing brush, grinding stumps, taking down 4-5" trees.
    The ET-90 does not have sufficient hydraulic flow to both travel & mulch, what I mean is that everything slows down when you're trying to do both.
    I do not mind this, you learn to pace your work accordingly. I let off the thumb switch that activates the mulcher when I want to travel, or swing the house, but only momentarily, this allows full hydraulic power. The mulcher is still spinning after I've rolled along the trail and takes only a few seconds to come back up to maximum rpm which is where it is most efficient at mulching. I would recommend the FAE BL series, they are very well made, the teeth are reversible thus 2X the life, and they are very easy to change. The whole unit cost about 17 grand CDN, and there is an outfit in Edmonton called 'Xtreme wear parts' that wholesales the replacement teeth, their prices are far cheaper than the FAE distributor can sell them for.
     
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  15. Rihpper

    Rihpper Well-Known Member

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    Hi, Snow Farmer, I cant find any info on the FAE BL30, What GPM is it designed for? is yours possibly a BL 3? The BL 3 seems to be for larger machines.
     
  16. hvy 1ton

    hvy 1ton Senior Member

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    BL1 is 31" and probably what he meant. As far as I know, The bite limiter drums come with knives, but can use carbides.
     
  17. TomA

    TomA Well-Known Member

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    There is a lot of mulching going on here for fire protection. Those big stand alone tracked mulching machines look like expensive money pits. Those full width skid steer mounted ones look like they would be hard on the machine. The mulchers on excavators seem like the way to go as long as the head is sized for the flow and cooling capacity available.
    It would not take a very big mulcher to whack down a bunch of stuff.
    I kind of dream of a 4-5 ton mini with a little mulcher. I have seen a somewhat larger Tak with about a 3' mulcher doing a great job.
     
  18. treemuncher

    treemuncher Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    eatin' trees, poopin' chips
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    West TN
    First of all, the stress that a mulcher puts on an excavator is exactly what the excavator linkages are NOT designed for. Excavators are designed to mostly pull towards the main frame and push away from it. Look at the pin orientation and realize that the mulcher head will be constantly twisting the pins and bushings at the end of the stick and the boom-arm connections. It's also going to slap the hell out of the swing pinion and main gear. These connections take the brunt of the force but force is also transmitted throughout the entire structure. Plan to do bushings a lot more often if you want to keep a relatively tight machine.

    If you want efficiency, let the excavator do what it does best and let it lift and position the head. Supply hydraulic power to the head via a separate engine and hydraulic system WITH A BIG COOLING SYSTEM. When you trash the mulcher hydraulics, at least you don't trash the entire excavator hydraulic system. I've been through this a few times. Thankfully, I've never wasted the Komatsu's system.

    Cooling a mulcher system demands a LOT of air flow and big heat exchangers. A stock excavator is not designed for the dust, debris and cooling demands that a mulcher will produce. Only true forestry designed machines will excel in such an environment.

    What a good excavator mulcher setup will allow is tackling most anything you need to take out. With practice, you can slap off 16" diameter trees at 20'+ height and drop or sway the top with some finesse. You can then initiate a good crack and chase that crack to within the last 2'-3' of the stump to speed up the process. It blows off bigger chunks but speeds up the process. If I have a decent size right of way job with lots of over-the-edge cutting, the excavator is the choice tool.

    If I can handle the job without the excavator, it is my last choice tool to put on a job. It may seem fast to some eyes but a good quality finish is not there without a lot of extra time, chips are not well contained and cause extra liability and all that lifting time is wasted time without a cut. With a good track machine I am ALWAYS cutting in forward and reverse. The excavator does not cover anywhere near as much ground per day unless it's specialty work that requires reaching over the edge like roads, levees, railroads or other situations. You also need a wider work area with an excavator to handle the tail swing and boom swing requirements. I've lost count of how many trees over 48" diameter that I've eaten with this machine. It will go through anything given enough time. 300 hp 8.3 Cummins, about 80+ GPM @ 5,000 psi. I really need to put a bigger pump on but I rarely use this machine any more. It's what got me up and going but I realize there are better options for me these days.

    These were pics from an electrical right of way a couple years ago. Most of the surface is exposed limestone or limestone-chert mix. Too steep for anything else to be useful.

    elec row  b4 3 2019.jpg
    IMG_20190301_112902115alt.jpg
    elec after 3 19.jpg
     
  19. John C.

    John C. Senior Member

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    Nice work on the machine and with it. Does all the grinding compost down and add fertilizer for the next crop of brush?

    I recommended dropping the counterweight and putting a hydraulic system on the back to a few customers a bunch of years ago. They wanted to just use the hydraulics on the machine and put all kinds of fancy extra valves on. They would overheat and call me. They would blow hoses and O ring seals and they would call me. They would overload both the engine and hydraulics and they would call me. They would complain the machine would steer to one side or the other and be slow when the mulcher was running and they would call me. It got where I would see a phone number light up on the display and I would punch the dispose button.
     
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  20. treemuncher

    treemuncher Senior Member

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    Actually, other than stump sprouts, a thick layer of mulch will retard any growth for the first few years. Thick mulch will stifle new growth for the first few years as it robs nitrogen from the soil and makes the soil acidic, according to the Ag Ext agent. From my experience, the thicker the tree stand was and the heavier the mulch bed, the longer it will take for grasses to get established but the better that grass will become once established.
    Now stump sprouts? They appear within a couple weeks and keep on truckin' unless chemically treated or cleaned off with a bush hog.
     
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