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Versatile Mulching Technology Is Key to Success for Forestry Service Contractors and Land Clearing Companies

Bob Ray Company Uses Fecon Mulchers for Versatile Land Clearing Practices – Fecon mulchers are versatile enough to clear out under story and thick brush, as well as serving as a cleanup machine.

By Staff
Date Posted: 10/1/2009

Lebanon, Ohio—With a slogan like “No Job Too Small, No Tree Too Tall” it is easy to understand why versatility is important to The Bob Ray Co. This Louisville land clearing company might be called upon to clean-up a small residential building site one day, and then be tasked for 42 miles of Right-of-Way clearing the next. Having the right equipment – or equipment which is versatile enough to handle a wide variety of tasks – is vital to their success. One piece of equipment with this type of sought-after versatility is a Fecon FTX440 forestry mulcher.

            Operations manager Tee Ray, who recently purchased his second Fecon mulcher, has seen virtually every type of land clearing equipment on the market. Heck, he’s owned many of them. After running a 400-HP Fecon FTX400 for four years, he upgraded to the 440-HP version. Its ability to handle many types of materials – including brush, stumps, logs, and standing trees – makes it invaluable to their operation. But Ray readily admits “ it still amazes me what they can do.”


First-In, Last-Out

            “We use it for the first machine into a clearing job and or the last machine into a clearing job, depending upon the type of material” said Ray. “We’ll thin out the material that has no market value – if it is really thick we’ll mow first. Then we’ll come in and fell the trees and either sell the trees or sell the wood chips from them. Then we’ll stump a job and come back in with that mower and do the final clean up on the land.”

            While often used to clear out under story and thick brush (especially on tracts of land which have not been maintained) the FTX also serves as a “clean up” machine. According to Ray, “after you’ve cleared the woolliest piece of ground, you can take that Fecon and run over everything and just slick it up as nice as can be.”

             “You can also use it for a total clearing machine – there’s not a tree that won’t fit inside that head” continues Ray, “Or one that you can’t mow up with it.” He recalled that they routinely grub out trees and grind the stumps as well as the logs and brush.

            Ray has a fleet of other equipment, including high-horsepower horizontal grinders. And he readily points out the need to have an excavator to feed the grinder. “As far as land clearing machines go – the Fecon is probably the most versatile single machine that is built.”

            That versatility allows Ray and his crews to use the FTX year round. Whether in the sweltering heat of the summer or the frigid cold of the Midwestern winter, the FTX starts right up and goes to work. That is important for any piece of equipment, but the investment has been worthwhile. “In the years that I’ve owned them,” recalls Ray, “the FTX has always had plenty of work. The best testimonial I can offer is that I cannot remember one job where we’ve had a customer complain about the value of work for the dollar that they paid – or the finished product.”

            Ray originally read about the FTX in a magazine article; he also saw them at shows and had one demonstrated. In addition to versatility the machine must be productive. When you process 600-800 tons of material per hour – all of which is recycled – you can’t have any bottlenecks. One high-production & low maintenance aspect that Ray likes about the FTX is the direct drive. Unlike hydraulically driven machines which loose HP, the direct drive imparts more power to the cutting head – with fewer parts, and less maintenance.

            Every machine needs maintenance, especially in abrasive forestry applications - and the FTX is no exception. Ray figures on an hour a day of maintenance – mostly checking the unit, cleaning it, and giving the teeth a once-over. He likes the fixed tooth design and is satisfied with the tooth life – even in the rocky Kentucky soil.

            Should the machine require factory service, he is well satisfied on that front too. “The Fecon service is excellent. If you’ve got a problem they’ve got a service tech to you the next day or maybe even the same day.”

            Considering the versatility to handle virtually any land clearing project, at high production rates, with acceptable maintenance intervals, it is easy to see why The Bob Ray Company is so excited about the Fecon FTX440. Tee Ray calls it “the ultimate forestry mower” and added “there is not a forestry mower out there that will do what this machine will do.” That is high praise indeed from someone who has seen (and owned) about every type of land clearing equipment there is.

            Another contractor with similar views is Grant Chevallier – an Alberta based contractor who has spent his whole working life in the woods. Although Chevallier, owner of Chevallier Geo-Con operates in a vastly different climate than Tee Ray, they are both sold on the importance of versatile equipment. Each man is sold on the need for equipment which can handle anything that you might encounter – especially when the economy softens and you find yourself scrambling to keep crews busy. One area which has been especially successful for Chevallier and his crews has been clearing right-of-ways for seismic exploration. This has kept his Fecon BH250 mounted on an RT350 carrier, and his pair of Fecon BH350’s mounted on RT400 carriers, despite the slowdown in other areas.

            In addition to the versatility to handle very large diameter materials, even when frozen solid, Chevallier is also pleased with the end-product produced by the mulchers.

            “We usually have the larger stumps pulled out by a track hoe so we can get the full mass of the stumps ground up,” said Chevallier. “They (oil companies) prefer to have the entire root mass from the stump masticated.”

            “The mulcher penetrates the top three or four inches below the ground surface getting most of the root mass,” said Chevallier. “They (oil companies) then strip the topsoil off, build the road and lay the topsoil back in the ditches. They don’t like to deal with large debris in the soil.”


Minor Maintenance

            “We have over 9,000 hours on the heads all together,” said Chevallier. “The biggest maintenance involves changing the tooth mounting (anvil) where you actually mount the tooth of the drum. Our main hazards for breaking teeth off are on boulders found under the ground. Unfortunately we usually wind up breaking a few teeth or wrecking a few anvils on more hazardous sites.”


Delicate Operations

            On new construction pipelines Chevallier uses the Fecon Bull Hogs because of their reliability and the finely shredded mulch that they produce. He especially likes the consistency when he’s cutting a swath 60 feet wide by between 600 feet to 10 miles in length.

            “We work in a variety of areas. A lot of our work is around Rocky Mountain House and within two hours of our base. That work is typically not very isolated but we do go into North Alberta and British Columbia, where the worksites are more remote.”

            “The models that we have are power take off driven,” said Chevallier. “With the power take off driven model there is more efficient power transfer and less maintenance.”

            “I also like the amount of control you have over timber using the hydraulic horns. For example, if we are knocking down timber in a narrow right-of-way, we need to be able to put the tree down in a controlled manner,” said Chevallier. “The design of the Bull Hog has a hydraulic controlled push bar so you can control the timber you are mulching. You don’t have trees constantly hitting your machine, hanging up on other trees, or simply not falling where they are supposed to fall.”

            Seismic exploration involves narrow right-of-way, usually a mere 10 feet wide but traveling over great distances. “It is in that application where you have to have tree control. It is very important for safety and overall efficiency,” said Chevallier.


Varied Operations, Same Results

            “For our normal day to day operations - it is strictly oil and gas development,” said Chevallier. “We also do road work, pipelines, and clear land for mine sites in areas up to 400 acres in size.”

            Chevallier has used the Fecon Bull Hogs on 20-25 percent grades as well as in areas of questionable footage, such as old lakes which have begun to fill in.

            “Some of our swamps are old lakes that have grown a skin of moss and small trees so there is really nothing under you but maybe 10 or more feet of questionable outcome,” mused Chevallier. “If you get stuck, it might only be five to six hours before the machine could be gone.”

            Using steel tracks Chevallier sees ground pressures in the range of 5.5 to 7.0 p.s.i. for their machines. “We can take the Fecon Bull Hogs into wet areas for example a pipeline, lease, or well site located on muskeg (swamp) or in a low wet area. The machine handles well.”

            “The machine is very well balanced and with steel tracks you get good traction and stability,” said Chevallier who relies on putting the Fecon Bull Hogs to work in the many hills and valleys on the Rocky Mountains.

            “Flat ground, hills, all kinds of terrain – we are right close to the Rocky Mountains,” said Chevallier. “We have the mountains to the west and the prairies to the east.” Either way the Fecon Bull hogs can handle the conditions.


On the Move

            The Fecon Bull Hogs are easy to pack up and move. “We have a tandem axle International 9300 and a tandem axle 8-wheel trailer,” said Chevallier. “We load one Bull Hog at a time, take it to the site, and return to take to another site. It only takes us about five minutes to load it onto the trailer and 15-20 minutes to get it chained down to meet the transportation laws.”


Constant Work Equals Fast Payback

            “The Bull Hog 250 paid for itself in under two and half years and the Bull Hog 350 paid for itself in under a year,” said Chevalier. “We like the Fecon machine as it is specialized and designed for mulching. The production rates and quality results give us the upper hand in winning the bid and the low maintenance helps us save money in the field.” And that is important whether you are clearing a pipeline, a roadway for a strip mine, or in the realm of seismic exploration.


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