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Author Topic: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation  (Read 2965 times)

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Offline AnvilRW

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Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« on: January 12, 2016, 04:33:28 pm »
Hi Folks - I'm not a logger and don't pretend to be one.  I'm in my 50's, own a machine shop, and I can usually run a chainsaw and various machinery without hurting myself or others.   That's really the extent of my experience, just so you know where I'm coming from.  I have 290-acres of property along the Front Range of Colorado.  It's mostly a mix of Ponderosa, Douglas Fir, and lots of scrub oak that I've been doing fire/fuels mitigation work on. 

I have a Bobcat T770 and I bought a Fecon Bull Hog (BH74) for it.  To help with the learning curve, I started off where the property was most flat, which isn't much, and then working my way up steeper and steeper ground as I gain confidence and experience.  I have about 200-hours into it now, have about 40-50 acres done and I'm finding the limits of the machine as far as slope.  I try to minimize my side sloping, but the problem is that if I go straight down on the steeper slopes when I back to mulch the rear end of the loader comes up and the Fecon head digs in and that stops me cold.  If I go up slope on the steeper ground the head raises up and/or my tracks slip (stock C pattern tracks).  What I've found, imprecisely, is that in my conditions I lose the ability to work on slopes over about 40-degrees from loss of traction or excessive lift.  This pic illustrates the problem.



My question revolves around what I could or should realistically expect as far as capabilities out of this combination?  I prefer working heading down slope and I've bought the Bobcat counterweight kit which adds 400-odd pounds to the rear of the machine and hopefully will help keep the Fecon head up and not digging in when backing up slope.  I'm also looking at replacing the stock tracks for models that have better traction.  Any recommendations?  The ones that caught my eye are the Prowler EXTs but I've not been able to find any real world review or input on them.  Any helpful advice would be most appreciated.

I've included some photos so you can see the kind of work I'm doing.


 




And yes, I do have some experience now replacing a track on a steep slope:

 
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Offline OntarioAl

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2016, 05:26:04 pm »
Welcome to the forum.
I have limited experience with skid steer style equipment but your tracks resemble what we refer to as street pads on dozers and excavators designed to prevent damage to asphalt and concrete surfaces. I think counter weight and more aggressive tracks will improve your hill climbing performance.
Folks with more experience will be along shortly to offer more help.
Nice job removing the oak brush.
Al
Al Raman

Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2016, 07:50:04 pm »
Thank you.
"A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us."

Offline mulching consultant

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2016, 10:23:38 am »
Anvil,

Your problem is a common one. Rubber tracked loaders are excellent machines and perform very well for where they are designed to work. However, they just don't get enough traction to work well on steeper slopes or wet conditions on slopes. You may find that the work goes much more easily with a steel tracked machine. I see you have a Fecon head there. Fecon also offers steel tracked mulching machines. Other companies do too. Maybe you could find one to rent and try.

Offline pine

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2016, 07:09:37 pm »
Anvil

As Mark, (I'm pretty sure that is who it is), "mulching consultant", said in his post our CTL carriers with rubber tracks have their limitations but if you are correct in your 40 degree slope comment then you are doing very well.  40 degrees is 84% slope and that can be a challenge even for steel tracked equipment.  With our short base and a 2500# Fecon head on it, we have balance limitations that can't defy physics.  Maybe you meant 40% slope but I would not be complaining about 40 degrees if I was able to get that.   From your pictures your terrain does not seem that steep, may be the view however.  As you well know getting sideways on that slope is a sure bet on either a shedded track or a sideways exciting ride down the hill or both.

I know with my ASV,  I have much better traction than I did with the Cat 299D XHP  due to the undercarriage design.   There are drawbacks of course but I can do much steeper terrain than with the Cat.

They do make steel tracks for our CTL machines.  They are not cheap however.  As Mark pointed out there are several mulching designs (carrier plus head) that are specifically made for forestry mulching that come with steel tracks. 

Also, there is a steel grouser bolt on option that I read about 6 months back where you can bolt steel grousers on your rubber tracks.  Don't know anything about them or if they damage your tracks more quickly.

I have found when descending steep inclines if I roll the head back so the skids are firmly on the ground the head does not dig in as much.  Anything forward of full back rotation and I get dig in as well.  Going up hill I lose traction anything beyond about 60% slope especially if there is any CWD for the tracks to start to slip on.

Offline bushmechanic

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2016, 08:47:59 pm »
I think you have the wrong machine for the job. I recently finished a power line cutting job where everything after had to be mulched. We had a Link Belt 160 excavator with a Fae mulcher on it. It was unbelievable where that could go. We only put the bucket on twice because it was too steep and with the bucket the machine kept sliding backwards trying to tear up everything. One hill was that steep we had to build a road to even get down over it. Very nice job on the land!

Offline pine

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2016, 08:51:43 pm »
Absolutely agree.  An excavator with a mulching head (Fecon/FAE etc) is great on real steep terrain.  Slower work rate but when real steep they are useful.  I'll take one of each. ;D  Not really but in a perfect world one can dream.

Offline Piston

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2016, 04:00:41 am »
I don't have any useful information for you, but I just wanted to comment on how beautiful your land/view looks. 

We won't get mad at you for posting more pics of that unit in operation.  ;D
-Matt
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Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2016, 03:51:48 pm »
Thank you all for your feedback.  I'd love to be able to buy a dedicated Fecon tractor or an excavator, but unfortunately I didn't win Powerball.  I did receive a grant from the forest service to hire a contractor with a spider type excavator and a brush hog and plan on using that for the really steep sections of the property along the road corridor.  That still leaves the vast majority of the property for me to pick away at with my 770/Fecon combo.

As to the grade, yes, I'm talking about degree of slope, not percent grade.  It's really hard to capture the steepness with the pictures.  I have scared the hell out myself a few times, but mostly think if I could work from the top down, keeping the Fecon head pointing down slope, I could go steeper than what I have been and still maintain some semblance of safety.  When I popped the track completely off, I had to chain the 770 to two different trees to keep it from slipping down slope as I worked on it.  Tracks weigh about 600-pounds each.  Took me 5-hours to get it sorted out.

This pic shows the grade better.  Lower sections are very easy to work, but obviously getting much steeper towards the top.


This is a pic looking down valley from the top.  You can see how fast it drops off.  Where I'm standing, the slope is too steep to be workable for my equipment no matter what I have for traction or counterweight.


This better shows how I'm pushing up to the ridge line.  Where the clearing stops, that's the limit of the 770 before I lose traction or the front end starts riding up.


This pic was my last clearing day of the year before the snows really set in.  The snow shows all the clearing of scrub as it was solid all the way down to the meadow.

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Offline beenthere

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2016, 04:21:39 pm »
What is the plan for keeping that brush down?
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Offline North River Energy

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2016, 06:09:59 pm »
Maybe rig up a hydraulic winch and run it with just enough tension to maintain traction.
This is commonplace in the ski industry to ensure a better surface prep on steeper terrain in winter, and also has application for summer maintenance.





Or find a good used snowcat and run your implement off the more appropriate chassis.


Offline samandothers

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2016, 06:45:05 pm »
Welcome! You have a nice place

Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2016, 07:22:27 pm »
What is the plan for keeping that brush down?
200-odd head of goats.

A lot of less steep ground I've cleared around the big meadow will get tilled and hayed as will the other plots that are usable.  I'll eventually kill off those root systems.
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Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2016, 07:22:53 pm »
Welcome! You have a nice place
Thank you.
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Offline redprospector

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2016, 09:10:57 pm »
Very nice work that you've done so far.
If you're working 40 degree slopes, you are definitely using the wrong machine. Something that you may want to consider, that you may not have thought about is engine oil. Look at your operators manual and see what the limits are for your Bobcat. One of the reasons for that limit is that the engine can't pick up the oil in the crank case if you exceed that limit (please don't ask how I learned that one  ;)). I have a Bobcat T320 with a Tushogg head that I use on small jobs, but as you are finding out, they have their limitations. I also have a Fecon FTX-90 that I use on everything else. The Fecon will climb a lot better than the Bobcat, but the same limitations apply as far as the engine oil goes. I had an ASV 4810 that would go on steep enough ground that it couldn't pick up the hydraulic oil...then you were really in trouble.  :D

Couple of pictures.
 

 

I prefer working up the hill. I have better control of the head, and things just seem to go better for me that way.
 

 

Just a few months after mastication.
 

 

The pair of em.
 

 

The option I recommend on slopes too steep for my machines is a real fine lop and scatter.
1996 Timber King B-20 with 14' extension, Morgan Mini Scragg Mill, Fastline Band Scragg Mill (project), 1973 JD 440-b skidder, 2008 Bobcat T-320 with buckets, grapple, auger, Tushogg mulching head, etc., 2006 Fecon FTX-90L with Bull Hog 74SS head, 1994 Vermeer 1250 BC Chipper. A bunch of chainsaws.

Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2016, 11:18:45 am »
Your property looks a lot like mine.  Very nice.  I'm anxious to see what the work I've done looks like come spring.  I would love to have one of those Fecons but the cheapest one I found, used, was $155K for a 128.  I'm sure others are out there but I've not found them.  I talked to my Bobcat rep about steel tracks for the 770 and he said they just tear up the drives and undercarriage.  Bobcat tried it and dropped it.  I guess Cat has a steel track CTL now and it will be interesting to see how they turn out.  I use my 770 on the ranch for many other purposes so if I were to get something for doing the mitigation work, it would have to be an addition not a replacement.  I have a Case 450 but it'd be a load of work converting it to running the Fecon head safely.
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Offline shamusturbo

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2016, 03:27:10 am »
I do not mulch but own and push a CTL of my own to the limit both on slopes and lifting max capacity. I was recently looking into a 289d to replace my 287b. *Mostly for the difference in undercarriage. However, ask Bobcat about different idler wheels to hold the track on better. (I know that only solves one of your problems) If you can, they make idlers with 3 wheels instead of 1 or 2. I may be wrong. I am not familiar with the Bobcat undercarriage. I am CAT+pilot control loyal and I pay for it  :(

To answer one of your original questions, I have run machines with much more aggressive tracks (Case CT450 and JD 333D) and yes it will help but not totally solve the problem.
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Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2016, 01:01:50 pm »
Just a follow up for other folks who may be researching this.  In the end I bought the Prowler EXT tracks for the T770.  The cost for a pair was about $2,400 and shipping was free to my dock.  I've been using them since Spring and have a couple of hundred hours on them now in steep, rocky, Colorado front range conditions.  The difference in performance between them and the factory tracks is night & day.  The machine is much more capable and much more confidence inspiring on steeper terrain and I've not managed to get it stuck yet.  They seem to be holding up well also. 

Another notable difference between the EXTs and the factory tracks is that I've not had to make a single tension adjustment since I installed them nor have they detracked (knock on wood).  The stock tracks stretched quite a bit while they broke in and though I checked them for tension daily I still managed to throw a track.  The only negative I have is that they really tear up the ground compared to the old tracks and they can dig sizable rocks up during turns.  If you do a spin turn on your recycled asphalt driveway it will look like you took a 10' auger to it.

Bottom line: I can highly recommend the EXTs where traction and stability on slopes is your #1 concern.



 

Thanks to all for the help.  Back to lurking.
"A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us."

Offline AnvilRW

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2017, 01:38:41 pm »
Another follow up.  I have about 350 hours on the EXP tracks now.  Still working great though maybe showing faster wear than compared to the stock tracks.  I still think these are a solid investment if you're working your CTL in conditions like mine.  When these are shot, I'll definitely buy another set.



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Offline mike_belben

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Re: Introduction and question on CTL/Fecon Bull Hog/Fire Mitigation
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2017, 02:20:55 pm »
Question.. Do you think a set of bogey wheels on a hydraulic swingarm mounted to the mulcher head could help you with reversing up steep hills?  Clearly the problem is weight transfer off the power unit and onto the mulcher, turning it into an anchor.  Lifting the head makes it even worse. 

I only mention this because youre a machinist (me as well) and thus its probably not terribly difficult for you to rig something up.  Im very confident having rollers engage the ground at the mulcher end and force the skid steer back into the dirt would be a dramatic improvement.   Its a similar instance with a 2wd vs 4wd loader tractor.  That front axle never shines more than when youve got a full scoop, facing downhill, and need to back up.

My only other thought has been mentioned.. A rear winch.  It sounds like youd need a dry sump for that much angle however.

Cool thread, nice work.