Skid steer disc mulchers are safe, productive land clearing attachments when matched with a suitable machine. They can also be hazardous if safety is not considered. The first step to safe, efficient operation is to ensure a proper match between the skid steer and the mulching attachment.
ENSURING PROPER MATCH
Mulching attachments must match the machine’s capabilities so it can operate safely. With so many options to choose from, it‘s important to match the flow rate of your skid steer’s hydraulic system.
MATCHING HYDRAULIC FLOW RATE
Most mulcher attachments require a skid steer with high flow hydraulics. You must know the flow rate of your skid steer and the minimum and maximum flow rate of the mulcher.
For example, the Virnig V70 Series Tree Disc Mulcher has a recommended flow rate of 30-45 gallons per minute (GPM), which will require a machine with high flow hydraulics. If a machine’s flow rate is under 30 GPM, the operator may not get the performance they desire.
IMPORTANT TIP: To achieve optimal performance, the mulcher’s flow rate should fall within the min/max range of the mulcher motor.
MATCHING LIFTING REQUIREMENTS
Disc mulchers are one of the heaviest skid steer attachments you can purchase. The disc alone weighs over 900 lbs. They need to be well built with heavy motors and thick steel to handle the abuse this type of forestry work entails. It needs to effectively handle the weight of the attachment plus, handle the weight of the trees it’s pushing and clearing.
BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE
Disc mulchers are expensive attachments, especially if they aren’t maintained. You must be proactive to ensure safe and efficient operation. “Do daily inspections for damages, leaks, and loose bolts. SHARP teeth cut, blunt edges hit like a hammer. Keep teeth sharp to eliminate unnecessary damage to holding components and retain efficiency while cutting,” said Greg Meyer, MTS Tree Service.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Every time you connect couplers there’s an opportunity to add contaminants to the hydraulic system. When connecting hydraulic hoses to the machine, use a clean rag or towel to thoroughly clean all couplers (both machine and attachment) before making connections. Contamination of hydraulic oil may cause motor failure.
The entire skid steer and mulcher should be cleaned periodically. Debris build up near the engine may cause the machine to overheat and catch fire. All windows should be kept clean to provide optimal operator visibility.
When replacing teeth, the disc bolt holes must be cleaned to allow bolts to torque properly. If there's debris in the bolt holes, the bolts may not torque correctly, allowing teeth to become loose and fly off the disc.
If excessive vibration becomes present, there could be loose hardware, missing/damaged teeth or debris stuck on the mulching disc. Debris stuck on the mulching disc may be removed by processing another tree. If vibration persists, stop and inspect the mulcher for a possible cause. Before exiting the machine, lower the mulcher attachment to the ground, turn off the machine’s engine and remove the key.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS
To minimize the risk of overheating, continuous rotation of the disc is recommended. If the disc stalls completely, disengage hydraulics and remove disc from material before restarting.
Be sure to engage hydraulics at an idle. When the disc is rotating smoothly, bring the loader to engine operating rpm. Don’t engage disc into material until the disc is running smoothly at engine operating rpm.
INJURY & DAMAGE PREVENTION
Disc mulchers will throw most of the material from the front and throw it further than brush cutter or drum mulcher. Keep this in mind if you’re planning on mulching in urban areas. It will be dangerous for bystanders within 300’ of operation.
Walk around the land before mulching and always be looking around and in front of the skid steer when mulching. Also, look for rocks, fence wire or other potential damaging items.
Debris, rocks and chips will ricochet toward the operator. For operator safety, all mulcher manufacturers require installing shatterproof cab windows and some advise using a falling object protection system (FOPS) for operator safety.
KEEP IT LOW AND SLOW
When using a forestry disc mulcher attachment, always be cautious when lifting the mulcher more than a few feet off the ground. The disc bottom should be kept out of the operators view. The operator should never see the disc bottom during operation. It's best to keep it out of sight to prevent material from being thrown at the operator and equipment.
Travel at a safe speed to avoid losing control of the attachment. Reduce your speed when driving over rough terrain, on a slope or turning to avoid overturning the mulcher.
SAFETY FIRST MINDSET
You being here means you’re trying to put safety first. Respect and maintain the mulcher and it’ll treat you well. Happy mulching and stay safe out there.