Drum Mulchers vs. Disc Mulchers: Which Is Better?
When it comes to skid steer mulching attachments, two of the most popular options are drum mulchers and disc mulchers.
We don’t need to tell you how important effective, efficient mulching is when it comes to the forestry industry. Whether you’re land clearing, prepping a site, practicing forest management or clearing an area after heavy storms, mulching has the potential to be a very profitable and reliable revenue stream for professionals in this market. The right skid steer mulching attachment can be a key ally in taking any mulching service to the next level.
When it comes to skid steer mulching attachments, two of the most popular options are drum mulchers and disc mulchers. This standalone equipment attaches to the front of a skid steer and works to mulch trees and brush in place, which helps to streamline efficiency and productivity. And one of the most common questions that we receive from forestry professionals is a simple one: what’s better – a drum mulcher or a disc mulcher? We’ll discuss all of this – and more – in this post.
Whether you’re new to the forestry industry or a seasoned veteran that just wants to review the basics and reassess which type of mulcher is right for you, we’ve taken the time to break down the basics, differences and more between drum and disc mulchers. Here’s a closer look:
Drum Mulchers 101: The Basics
When it comes to the basics between drum mulchers and disc mulchers, the key differentiating factors involve mulching quality and speed. Let’s start this piece discussing drum mulchers. Typically, drum mulchers are not as fast working as disc mulchers, but where they may sacrifice a little bit of speed, they more than make up for it when it comes to the quality of the mulching they’re able to perform. For example, drum mulchers are excellent at grinding down stumps, especially as it pertains to grinding them down below ground level. And following mulching, the end product is usually very refined, which makes it easier to sell.
Drum mulchers can also typically process fair amounts of trees or brush at once, as the attachment tends to be wide. However, one very important consideration that should come with any drum mulcher that you select is quality. That’s because the teeth tend to wear out rather easily in time, which can make replacement necessary more often. Selecting a quality and well-made drum mulcher attachment can help extend the life of these teeth so that you’re spending more time generating revenue in the field and less time out of service. You can also select different types of teeth for your mulcher depending on the type of work that you’re doing with it to maximize their lifetime.
Three Types of Drum Mulchers
Not all drum mulchers are the same. In fact, there are three main styles commonly used in the forestry industry: smooth, paddle and depth control. Smooth mulchers tend to be the most popular, as they’re more of an all-around tool for efficient site clearing and site prep.
Disc Mulchers 101: The Basics
Now let’s move on to disc, or rotary, mulchers, which tend to sacrifice quality and a fine finish for more speed. Simply put, disc mulchers are ideal when you want to clear out a large number of trees. While they can also grind stumps, they tend to be a less reliable piece of equipment for this task. This is largely because disc mulchers tend to grind stumps so that they’re level with the ground; they don’t typically grind them below grade as drum mulchers are able to do. However, where disc mulchers excel is when it comes to the “cut and feed” method, which essentially involves pulling in trees and brush, and processing it in a matter of seconds. Disc mulchers also tend to have messier finishes than drum mulchers. While a drum mulcher typically leaves smaller wood chips in its wake, larger wood chunks are the more likely after-product when a disc mulcher is administered on site. Disc mulchers also tend to distribute these wood chips a bit more erratically than drum mulchers.
Another key separator between drum and disc mulcher skid steer attachments is cost. Disc mulchers tend to be more affordable than their drum mulcher counterparts.
Key Differences In The Disc Mulcher Vs. Drum Mulcher Contest
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics between drum mulchers and disc mulchers, it’s worth getting into the nitty gritty of some of the key differences between the two to help you determine the type of skid steer attachment that would be best for you. Here’s a look at some of the key considerations to take into account and what type of mulcher is the better fit for your operations:
While disc mulchers are lacking in other key features that forestry professionals need to account for in order to do their jobs efficiently, one aspect that they do not lack in: speed. That is, productivity is high with disc mulchers, and they certainly aren’t going to slow you down out in the field. Part of the reason for this is the weight and size of the disc mulcher attachment, which helps to keep its momentum up when taking down and mulching trees and other brush.
While drum mulchers can’t match the speed that disc mulchers work at, there are two key performance factors that they do excel at compared to their disc counterparts. One of them is stump grinding, which we’ll get into here. And the other is finish, which we’ll discuss in the next section. One of the biggest benefits of using a drum mulcher is that it can grind stumps several inches below grade, which means it can get rid of big stumps and any roots along with it. This differs from disc mulchers, which are typically only able to grind the stump to grade level. Another nice thing about being able to grind the stump below grade is that doing so will kick up topsoil, which makes any forthcoming planting all the more convenient.
Are you looking for a mulch finish consisting of large chunks of wood or fine wood chips? If you selected the latter, then a drum mulching attachment is the right piece of equipment to help you realize this. Drum mulchers help produce a much finer finish, which can be especially beneficial if any mulch resale is part of your operations. You can get to that finer finish with a disc mulcher, but it will take multiple passes, which can sap productivity.
Both types of skid steer attachments represent a significant investment in your forestry operations, however as we noted earlier in this piece, disc mulchers tend to typically cost a few thousand dollars less than drum mulchers. When it comes to cost, however, it’s important to consider function as well as price. If you’re strictly looking to clear brush and trees quickly and aren’t as concerned with how fine the wood chippings are, disc mulchers are an ideal solution. But if you’re looking for a more all-around mulcher attachment that can clear brush, grind stumps and produce fine mulch in the end, paying a few thousand dollars more for a drum mulcher is a worthwhile investment.
There’s also the safety aspect that needs to be considered, and such considerations are especially important in busy forested areas or in urban regions. Obviously, any professional should know how to operate a skid steer and the appropriate attachment before using it, but safety is also important to consider in terms of debris. As we mentioned above, disc mulchers tend to grind trees and brush into larger pieces, while drum mulchers produce a much finer mulch. Additionally, disc mulchers tend to be more erratic with mulch as they’re working, spraying it all around and throwing it generally further than drum mulchers. Drum mulchers, conversely, tend to work in a more controlled manner. This is an important consideration on active forest sites or on jobs near residential homes or communities.
We’ll close this section by talking about flexibility and versatility, that is, how each mulcher attachment tends to perform in confined areas. Being that drum mulchers are generally more compact than their disc mulcher counterparts, maneuverability is often much better. This characteristic comes in especially helpful in dense areas. Operator visibility also tends to be better with a drum mulcher, as there’s nothing obstructing the view. This isn’t always the case with the disc mulcher.
Bottom Line – Drum Mulchers Are better Than Disc Mulcher In Almost All Situations
Both drum mulchers and disc mulchers have their place in the forestry industry. However, noting the key differences between the two types of mulchers, it’s easy to see how a drum mulcher is the ideal all-around forestry tool that can perform a variety of tasks – such as mulching and stump grinding – and perform them very well. And as a value-added bonus, it’s also a safer skid steer attachment to operate and is able to create finer pieces of mulch that can be used for resale purposes. While disc mulchers are generally faster and less expensive, their ideal use is for clearing out forested areas, while lacking a clean finished product and more robust stump grinding capabilities.