Evan Peterson keeps tabs. Two years ago, the owner of Peterson Land Services started taking mental notes of customers that he had to turn down because he didn’t have the right equipment. Folks around Columbia, S.C., wanted him to mulch properties that were overgrown with sweet-gums, scrub oaks and other vegetation. Unfortunately, his mulching deck mower head couldn’t handle it. Rather than investing in a new machine, Peterson kept saying no when offered bigger projects. Eventually saying “no” added up to more lost revenue than a new mulching head cost.
So, Peterson said “yes” to a new mulching head, a Fecon Bull Hog 74 with an FGT rotor. The Bull Hog paired nicely with the Bobcat T770 track loader that still serves as Peterson’s trusty steed for most of his jobs. The FGT features a smooth drum that draws less horsepower while a spiral design means fewer tools are engaging the material at any time.
Peterson first heard of Fecon while researching mulching equipment. His Bobcat dealer has always used Fecon heads. But it was a personal friend and professional mentor that convinced him: “If it’s not red, don’t bother with it,” he said.
Saying yes to the Bull Hog allowed Peterson to start accepting forestry mulching jobs for private landowners and hunting clubs. Most landowners want him to clear out underbrush and trees to make it look like a park. Peterson recalls one recent job that was so thickly overgrown with sweet-gum and scrub oak that he could barely walk through the plot. The Bull Hog cleared the way while the Bobcat easily maneuvered around the larger trees.
Peterson averages 3/4 of an acre to an acre of mulching a day, but that can vary drastically depending on what he’s mulching and how overgrown the land is. While the rate of clearing varies, the scale doesn’t. He can tackle trees up to 20 in. in diameter all the way to the root ball.
Peterson prides himself on his end-product, so he switched from the FGT rotor to the Depth Control Rotor (DCR). It is less aggressive but more efficient, producing consistent, finely shredded mulch. Depth control rings provide a smaller bite at a faster speed, making it less about the bite and more about the chew. Rather than taking big bites and stalling the motor, the DCR just keeps taking smaller bites. After all, slow and steady wins the race. His admittedly “extreme” maintenance includes cleaning all areas of his equipment, sharpening the tools and greasing the zircs — an hour daily — time well spent because it keeps him operating efficiently in the field.
Mulching eliminates the need to bunch up and gather material to be either taken off site or burned on site. The mulch adds valuable nutrients to the soil, as opposed to burning the materials, which prevents the nutrients from being recycled and also increases the risk of forest fires. As a former firefighter, Peterson knows firsthand how quickly brush fires can get out of hand. Rather than wait and pray for rain, Peterson can mulch the materials and get on to the next jobsite.
Peterson is a one-man show, so if anything goes wrong in the field, he’s the one that has to fix it — and productivity grinds to a stop while he does. In two years of operating the Bull Hog, Peterson has hit everything from rocks to cables and even a solid I-beam. The Bull Hog didn’t overheat, jam or blow a line.
A few blown teeth have been no problem: The teeth are easily accessed and changed using a single Allen head tool. Any production downtime in the field has been less than an hour, Peterson estimates.
Peterson’s maintenance routine is admittedly, in his own words, “extreme.” Call it a remnant from his old job as a Columbia firefighter, where part of his job was making sure everything was clean and ready for the next call. That translates into washing his equipment every week and extensive daily cleanouts.
He greases the Bull Hog and sharpens the teeth twice a day for 20 minutes, then opens everything up, blows it out and cleans everything off daily. It’s an hour-long routine, but any delay pays dividends with a smooth ride on the jobsite. He’s logged full days in the heat of a South Carolina summer without overheating or other issues.
Peterson likes to work smart, not hard, and he prefers to let his equipment do most of the work for him. More time clearing makes for more efficient work, shortening the amount of time he’s out on customer’s property without sacrificing quality. He sees every project as an advertising opportunity, and happy customers have so far spread the word for him.
And with his reputation spreading, the next jobs are piling up quickly — with no slowdown in sight.
Mike Kucharski is the VP of dealer development for Fecon.
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