Dear Ole Mechanic;

I just got over 1,000 acres that has a mix of Oak and Cedar, a lot of Cedar.  I am planning to clear the Cedar and was wondering what you would suggest I purchase to clear it.  Do I want a dozer, a front end loader/backhoe-equipped tractor or a skid steer with a shear on it?Clearing Cedar

Lotta Work to Do 

Dear Work to Do;

I could have used a little more information concerning the lay of your land.  Is it: steep hills?  Or deep-draw badlands?  Or mostly rolling to flat?  Not having that informationl, I will assume that you have got some of everything.  Right up front I will give you some very sound advice that will save you money and aggravation.  DO NOT buy a pony to do a draft horse’s job!  If you get too small a machine, you will take much longer than it should, tear up more equipment, and do a half-assed job (please forgive my French).

That said, I will get into some of the pros and cons of the machines that you mentioned and one-other possibility. 

That other possibility is Cedar choppers.  It would be nice if you could get someone to pay you a little money and get rid of some of your Cedar, if it is big enough.  Now I doubt that they will take it all and they might knock some Oak down,too, but if you don’t mind someone else on your property, it might be worth your time to check into it.  While I personally do not know anyone locally that harvests Cedar, there is a Cedar Oil Mill on this side of Junction--close to the Segovia exit off of I-10.  They might be able to recommend someone.

Now for the equipment you mentioned in your letter.  Is there one of them that you might plan on keeping after the Cedar is cleared?  Would you keep a crawler to build roads and a water tank?  If so, then a dozer is probably the way to go.  There is one thing about dozers that I have learned.  They are great for tearing up things but not for doing the final finesse on a job.  That has been my experience, but then I am NOT a heavy-equipment operator, either.  Someone that is would be able to do a real nice finish job, but your letter sounded like you were going to be the operator and may not have much experience as an operator.  Since it will take a reasonable-sized dozer to pry the Cedar roots out of the rock around here, it’s size may give you a problem getting to all the Cedar without tearing out some of the Oak.

A skid steer with a shear would work good if you needed some roots left in the ground to prevent erosion.  Of course, some of that Cedar would come back rather quickly from the roots unless you run some livestock on it that will eat the new-growth Cedar.  A skid steer is a little small if you use only the bucket to clear with, but they are very maneuverable and would cut down on the accidental Oak damage.  They are very handy and have a lot of attachments available should you decide to keep it after the Cedar is removed.

A front-end loader and a backhoe mounted on a good sized industrial tractor will work good on Cedar, as the front end loader will push out the small stuff.  With the backhoe, you can dig at the roots some to loosen the tree and then get up higher with the bucket to push the tree over.  While a backhoe is somewhat limited in its variety of uses, the front-end loader is not.  I have seen them used for everything from pulling an engine to pushing T-posts into the dirt to build a fence.  Oh, yes, they do a good job of loading stuff too. 

Have I answered your question?  No, but I have given you some of the pros and cons about each, because it is your acreage and your money.  Speaking of money, all of the equipment that you mentioned is not cheap but if you take care of it you can usually sell it in two or three years for almost what you bought it for.  I would not suggest buying new equipment; instead, get a well -ared for unit that is three to five years old.  That way you do not get hit with the depreciation of going from “new” to “used,” but it will be new enough that parts will still be available.

Don’t forget to check with your tax advisor, accountant or CPA, as there can be tax advantages by buying new, used or leasing.  There also could be an advantage to contracting the job instead of buying the equipment.  You didn’t say where your acreage was located, but you would want to check with the LCRA, as they did have some financial assistance for clearing Cedar in some areas.

If you do wind up buying equipment, have fun playing with your new Big Boy Toy, and remember--when all else fails--read the instruction manual.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts