Skid Steer Disc Mulcher vs Drum Mulcher

Skid Steer Disc Mulcher vs Drum Mulcher

What is the difference between a skid steer disc mulcher and drum mulcher attachment? It is a question we are consistently being asked. In this article, we talk performance, costs, options, and other differences between these two skid steer mulchers to help you decide if either is appropriate for you.


Mulching can be a beneficial service for forestry and landscaping professionals. Here are the most common applications where skid steer mulchers are being used today:

  • Land clearing for private and public property
  • Site preparation and lot clearing
  • Pipeline and transmission line maintenance
  • Forest management and wildfire prevention
  • Trail and road overgrowth clearing
  • Storm damage and disaster cleanup


When choosing a mulching attachment, it is essential to make sure it matches the machine’s capabilities to ensure it can operate efficiently. The machine needs to have the proper flow rate and be able to handle the weight of the attachment. Below, we discuss cutting capacity and capabilities of each skid steer mulcher.

Cutting Capacity

Skid steer disc mulchers have a bigger cutting capacity. You’ll typically see a cutting limit of 14” diameter trees. For drum mulchers, you will normally see an 8” or 9” limit. High flow skid steer drum mulchers will cut 8” diameter trees continuously. Operators can cut greater trees than that, yet it is not prompted. It doesn’t bode well to mulch any material bigger than 8”, since it takes an excess of time.

Tree Clearing Methods & Productivity

Disc mulchers can pull whole trees into the shroud, mulching them to pieces within a few seconds. Lastly, the stump can be mulched to the ground.

Both types of mulchers can cut the tops off taller trees. Then the operator can mulch the stump to ground level. Lastly, the top of the tree can be mulched while lying on the ground. Another similar technique is cutting a tree near the bottom and try to mulch the tree on the ground. This is a safer but more time-consuming method.

A disc mulcher is more difficult to overwhelm than a drum. AFE’s cutting disc is made of Weldox 700 T-1 Steel which is 30% stronger than mild steel and built with a bent axis piston motor helps power through thick brush and 14" diameter trees with ease. Overall, trees can be cleared a lot quicker, which results in higher productivity when compared to a drum mulcher.

Mulching Stumps

Disc mulchers will grind stumps to ground level and drum mulchers can mulch stumps below ground. The biggest difference is you can mulch 1-2” into the ground with a drum mulcher, allowing you to mulch stumps and roots below grade. You can plant afterward because it is bringing up the topsoil and mulching the material into it.

Final Finish

Do you want more wood chips or wood chunks? A drum mulcher leaves smaller wood chips while the disc mulcher leaves larger chunks when mulching. AFE disc mulcher have designed their reduction shroud system in a unique way that forces material through the shroud and into fixed cutting that results in instant fresh, clean mulch.

Pro Tip: Try to keep the teeth off the ground and avoid rocks to prevent wear.


Disc mulcher skid steer attachments are less expensive. Most high flow disc mulchers fall into a $20,000-$28,000 price range and have a 60” cut width, while most high flow drum mulchers fall into a $35,000-$48,000 price range and have a 50”-75” cut width. Pricing will vary depending on width, the manufacturer chosen, and the different options discussed below. 

Skid Steer Disc Mulcher Options

The motor is the most expensive part of the mulcher, and they either have a piston motor or a gear motor. Gear motors are usually a few thousand dollars less upfront, but productivity and efficiency will be sacrificed. A piston motor is the highest performing motor available. It will have quicker recovery time, higher disc speed and more torque than a gear motor. We only use piston motors on our AFE Forestry Disc Mulchers to deliver more torque and the disc spinning while other mulchers may bog down or stall.

AFE Forestry Disc Mulchers make use of 2 different type of teeth for our mulchers Beaver Teeth which have a straight edge, is durable, and can be re-sharpened right on the blade. Carbide Thumbnail Teeth are designed for durability and placed on the bottom of the cutting disc as the primary mulching tooth.

We also offer optional extension tooth combo kits. These include the Shark teeth and Bullet teeth. Shark teeth are high efficiency extension cutting tooth, and these are not recommended for use in rocky conditions. The Bullet teeth are a medium efficiency extension cutting tooth that holds up well in rocky conditions.

PRO TIP: Keep teeth sharp to allow a clean, efficient cut. Keeping the teeth sharp will be easier on the machine and the mulcher motor. If the teeth are dull it will tear and shred material rather than cutting through it like butter. 

Skid Steer Drum Mulcher Options

A drum mulcher attachment will either have a variable (two) speed piston motor or a gear motor. The piston motor will have quicker recovery time and provide more torque. The piston motor automatically changes the rotor speed and torque depending on the material being cut.

When rotor speed is high, material will shred faster and produce a finer result. When in thicker material, the mulcher will provide more torque, while a different motor may stall. When mulching dense material, the motor will automatically shift to a lower speed and for lighter material it will shift to a higher speed.

There are three different drum options in this industry - smooth, paddle style and depth control. There are also two main tooth options - knife and carbide. These will allow users to make different styles of cuts depending on application. The right tooth combination depends on the material you are mulching. What is nice with a drum mulcher is you can run all carbide, all knife or 50/50 knife and carbide or any combination you want.


Drum mulchers are generally safer to use in urban areas. They will push most of the material back toward the ground and not away from it, like a disc mulcher. Some drumheads will have a door or deflector that will help push material toward the ground. 

Disc mulcher exhaust will mainly come from the front and larger material will be tossed further than a drum mulcher. This is where Advanced Forest Equipment is different. AFE designed their mulcher with a reduction shroud system which acts like a vacuum and moves the material into the cutting teeth which results in faster production and a finer mulch size.

No matter which mulcher is operating, it is always best to keep bystanders 300' away from all mulching attachments during operation to prevent injury.

Debris, rocks, and chips will ricochet toward the operator. For operator safety, all mulcher manufacturers require installing shatterproof cab windows and advise using a falling object protection system (FOPS) for operator safety. Heavy Equipment Armor is the perfect blend of safety and affordability. To learn more about Heavy Equipment Armor click here.


Many skid steer drum mulcher motors will need to be physically tuned by the attachment owner, manufacturer or dealer before operation. It must match the GPM (flow rate) of the loader and the optimal RPM of the mulcher rotor. Each manufacturer has their own guidelines and charts to help tune the mulcher to the skid steer. This step is crucial because low RPM will result in slow, inefficient cut speeds, while higher RPM may permanently damage the motor.

A skid steer disc mulcher works with a variety of high flow loaders without needing to adjust the mulcher motor each time a loader with a different flow rate is used. Attach the disc mulcher to the loader, connect couplers and the operator is ready to mulch.

With AFE Disc Mulcher there is an ease of maintenance more so than other mulchers. There are no belts, pulleys, or shivs. Our systems are direct drive, the power goes directly into a bearing box transferring 100% of the power to the cutting disc. We have a rubber safety coupler between the hydraulic motor and bearing box to protect from damage.

AFE also uses a direct drive system which is a custom built with crusher style bearings and a heat treated tapered 4” drive shaft. We utilize a fixed displacement bent axis piston hydraulic motor which is coupled to a rubber drive coupling to isolate the shock load transmitted thru the bearing box. The bearing box is fully submerged in an oil bathed system with an expansion chamber to always keep the oil level constant for longer bearing wear. We also utilize a large drive hub mounted to the disc which matches to the taper shaft wit ha double locking fasting system.


Skid steer mulchers are great at performing in areas they are best suited for. Instead of one being better than the other, each style has its own advantages that will aid in some applications more than others. The more you know about your application and your desired result, the easier it will be to choose a skid steer mulcher for your operation. 

If you are interested in learning more about AFE skid steer disc mulchers, visit our mulchers page. Please feel free to contact us, and see how our forestry disc mulcher can make a difference for you.