Chip Lafferty could be considered a chip off the old block, working alongside his brother and father at the company that his grandfather founded. Initially Lafferty Chipping created wood chips for a local papermill but the company has evolved to become a professional land clearing company, clearing rights of way for pipelines and utilities along with lot clearing for development, forestry mulching and other land improvement projects. Unlike traditional land clearing contractors, who mulch as much material as they can to avoid hauling extra weight, Lafferty Chipping harvests the keeper trees and only grinds the rest. Over the years they have amassed an assortment of mulchers, chippers, stump grinders and more, always on the lookout for equipment that will help make them more efficient. So, when Lafferty heard that Fecon would be demonstrating their FTX290 at the Paul Bunyan show nearby, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to look.
Sibling Rivalry Drives New Efficiency
Lafferty was impressed with the low ground pressure mulching tractor and wanted his younger brother, Josh, to see it as well. They had Fecon bring an FTX290 to a current jobsite in an old strip-mining site. Their go-to mulching tractor, a Bandit 4000, was already mulching the regrowth which was primarily 8 to 14-inch locust and cottonwood trees, along with underbrush heavy in autumn olive and multiflora rose. The older Lafferty drove the Fecon while his brother piloted the 25 ton, 450 hp Bandit. Call it a demo or a friendly sibling rivalry, but halfway through, the junior Lafferty stopped to ‘check’ on what he assumed would be his big brother’s lackluster work. “My brother decided to take a break and come over and see how much I was getting done because he was thinking that he had done so much more than me because his machine was a lot bigger.”
Older proved to be wiser, as the junior Lafferty saw in disbelief. “He actually stopped me and said, ‘this is amazing,’” recounted the older Lafferty, “you have done more than I have and… now after seeing this, I want to go and re-grind everything I have done to make it look better.”
While sized for large-scale mulching and land clearing jobs, the compact size of the FTX290 also saves on fuel. “We probably got 40% more done with 50% less fuel,” he recalled. That was one of the big turning factors for making a purchase decision. Lafferty Chipping’s Bandit went through about 200 gallons of fuel a day while the Fecon consumed just 85-100 gallons. “And that’s running it nonstop,” added Lafferty.
The brothers then switched machines so the junior Lafferty could experience the power and productivity firsthand. Onboard diagnostics on the FTX290 allow operators system control for maximum production and efficient management of power to get jobs done faster and reduce the chance of mechanical breakdown or burnout. Operator visibility of the mulching head and tracks in addition to smooth control response make it easy to work in tight areas or in a dense forest. There are plenty of creature comforts in the FTX290 as well, which is important when you are spending 8-10 hours in the cab. The Lafferty brothers found the cab spacious, with plenty of legroom, a heated seat for cold-season mulching, ergonomic operator controls, and a standard adjusting suspension seat. For safety sake, there are two side doors and a standard roof hatch that provide three points of egress and the FTX290 cab windows also feature a polycarbonate material on all sides to protect against flying debris.
Less Downtime for More Game-time
In the mulching industry, time isn’t just money. It can also be a lost opportunity, as landowners and contractors look for companies that they can count on to efficiently service their needs. Pressure like that makes the breakdown of a machine that much more painful. “There’s no bigger cost of owning equipment than downtime,” is a favorite saying of Lafferty, and one that he references often when evaluating equipment.
“Downtime, might not be costing you out of your pocket, but downtime costs you in the fact that you’re not getting the job done fast enough for the contractors in the oil field and then next thing you know they’re trying to find someone else that can go a little bit faster.” That’s why Lafferty was pleased with Fecon’s and Company Wrench’s quick response time to mechanical issues. “We’ve had minor and major issues that really wasn’t their fault it was just the machine, and the warranty that Fecon has… has been by far the best out of any brand of equipment we own.” Cleaning and periodic services can quickly be performed on the compact FTX290. Tanks are equipped with large cleanout ports for thorough and fast cleaning and the machine has a wide rear door for easy access to the cooler, radiator, and reversing fan.
Beyond Fecon’s dedication to quickly address any mechanical issues, the FTX290 is built to avoid hazards and breakdowns as much as possible. The transfer pump mounted onboard keeps the oil clean when the machine is in service and the exhaust and intake are well-guarded from debris and the elements. “Our hydraulic temperature has never gotten like much above 150 and… the other mower we had, it would run up almost 200 degrees, and then our stump grinders, they run like 250 degrees,” recalled Lafferty who was pleased with the cooler running oil temperatures. “Common sense tells them that if you’re running cooler, then all your hydraulic systems are gonna last a lot longer before you have failures because heat creates problems no matter what you’re doing.” The high performance FTX290 comes equipped with a Cummins QSC 8.3 engine and over 100 GPM of hydraulic flow to the Rexroth variable speed motors of the mulcher, making it both fast and effective.
Compact Size Packs a Big Punch
Prior to purchasing the Fecon FTX290, Lafferty was hauling his Bandit mulcher from jobsite to jobsite. While the extra-large equipment could tackle large volumes of land, it came at an extra-wide cost. Over-size permits to transport the machine to and from jobs added to the work cost. The compact design of FTX290 was an attractive alternative because “it saves me a hundred and 45 dollars every time I move it.” Sized to tackle large-scale areas, the FTX290 is a legal load in most areas. Lafferty recognized the benefits of the Fecon as “a smaller machine that can do the same work.”
While sized for large-scale mulching and land clearing jobs, the FTX290 nimbly fits into tighter job sites. “The smaller machine makes it a little easier because for one, it goes on steeper ground…and it’s a lot lighter so it doesn’t have problems climbing the steeper terrain…It’s smaller in stature so if we have areas that are sensitive we get in there and move around and not tear up ground that we don’t need to.”
This allowed for more opportunities to show off the FTX290’s abilities and generated more business opportunities for Lafferty Chipping. The versatility of the Fecon mulcher combined with its lower operating costs reduced the overhead for the family business. That reduction made it more feasible for Lafferty Chipping to tackle a wider range of jobs such as homeowners and farmers.
The compact, smart design of the FTX290 saves time, fuel, and cuts down on machine downtown, all while tackling the same terrain, topography and materials as its larger counterparts. Switching to the nimble FTX290 has been a productive and profitable venture for Lafferty Chipping, helping them evolve the business that their grandpa started into the next generation.