A call from sunny Pretoria – the land of the Blue Bulls and Mamelodi Sundowns – sent the SA Forestry team on a mission to Bulwer on the road to the Drakensberg mountains in KZN to find a big, South African-manufactured drum mulcher dubbed the ‘Beast’.
We found it! One couldn’t miss it, actually! It was parked next to the road, an impressive hulk of a machine dressed in yellow and grey livery that looks capable of reducing bush, post-harvest slash and big tree stumps to a mulch with relative ease.
The Wuhlf 960 wheeled mulcher is a 276kW machine manufactured by Wuhlf Equipment in Pretoria. According to the Wuhlf team it compares favourably with any of the imported mulchers in terms of durability, reliability and productivity, with one significant advantage. It is designed and manufactured in SA specifically to suit conditions in Africa, so the spares, maintenance and technical skills required to keep this machine working productively are available on our doorstep.
At roughly half the cost of equivalent mulchers manufactured overseas, the Wuhlf 960 is a new addition to the Wuhlf stable of mulchers which include the smaller 920 (85kW) and 930 (129kW) drum mulchers – all wheeled machines.
The Wuhlf team was in KZN to do a demo of the 960 for Alastair Fagg of Grand Bridge Trading, one of the leading South African contractors with a lot of experience in mulching in forestry applications.
The demo site was a local farm where the farmer is clearing old wattle land for pasture. The Wuhlf 960 proceeded to reduce the above ground vegetation and old wattle stumps to a decent mulch with ease, under the watchful eyes of the farmer and the Grand Bridge team.
Alastair said that he was interested in the Wuhlf mulcher to add to his stable of mulchers which include large, purpose-built tracked mulchers. He is a big believer in the benefits of mulching post-harvest residues in forestry compared to the traditional practice of burning slash, as well as in other land care applications such as land conversion and bush clearing.
Grand Bridge Trading started doing trials of complete field mulching in South Africa at Sappi Zululand some eight years back with a five year contract to mulch 1 800 hectares a year.
This pioneering work enabled Sappi South Africa to determine the true benefits of mulching versus traditional burning, and the results exceeded expectations, said Alastair.
Since then Grand Bridge has stayed within the Sappi stable, believing in the advantages of mulching. While Sappi is busy expanding its mulching operations, a growing number of corporate and private growers and farmers around South Africa are also turning to mulching to reap the benefits. These include improved soil care (moisture and nutrient retention), improved compartment access, reduced fire risk and the opportunity to re-plant immediately after the mulcher has reduced the post-harvest residue to an even mulch cover.
Wuhlf Equipment was established in 2004 by brothers Johan and Carl Grobler, supplying and supporting front end loaders, 4x4 forklifts and a range of attachments. In 2013 they started designing and manufacturing mulchers to be used in Africa mainly for bush clearing. There are a large number of Wuhlf mulchers out there doing exactly that.
They recently added the Wuhlf 960 to their product line with the aim of putting it to work in the forestry environment which requires more power and durability.
The complete mulcher head plus the canopy and the hydraulics are manufactured in Wuhlf’s Pretoria factory. The chassis, wheels, gearbox, diff and hydraulic pumps are sourced from leading international suppliers. The mulchers are assembled at the factory in Pretoria.
Johan Grobler says that the 960 does not come with complicated, high-tech computer systems. He says any competent hydraulic and diesel mechanic can maintain and repair the machines if necessary, thus improving machine availability. They’re simple, tough and well suited to conditions across Africa, he says.
The mulchers come with a 12 month or 1 000 hours warranty, with more extended warranty options available.
Wuhlf Equipment’s timing in entering the mulching market couldn’t be better. Mulching is really taking off in this part of the world as land owners and managers realise the long term benefits of the operation.
“Mulching will have a massive impact in southern Africa in bush clearing and improving land care practices,” said Johan. “There are 19 million hectares of bush encroachment in Namibia alone.”
He said that there are around 40 Wuhlf mulchers working across southern Africa, mainly doing bush clearing, but this was their first foray into the forestry sector. The team understood that forestry needed more grunt, hence the introduction of the 276 kW Wuhlf 960 Drum Mulcher.
Visit wuhlf.co.za for more info and see the Wuhlf 960 in action on our YouTube channel...