Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative Retains Yield Through Long Winters

Featured in: Compact Equipment

By: Chapman Hancock, Ditch Witch product manager of CTS and service parts

It’s hard to avoid winter temperatures, especially when living in the depths of the Midwest, coastal New England and the rolling mountains of the West. While hats, gloves, boots and down coats can help keep underground construction operators warm on a job, there is no apparel that will do the same for their equipment. Operators must winterize equipment to keep it in tip-top operating shape through the bone-chilling months. Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean you have to put your business on ice.

Case in Point

Minnesota winters are not for the weak. The cold temperatures can last as long as five months out of the year and linger at degrees lower than zero with annual snowfalls of as much as 170 inches. Despite the frigid climate, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) works year-round installing electric lines underground to commercial and residential customers across nine Minnesota counties using trenchers.

The co-op relies on Ditch Witch RT ride-on trenchers for a majority of their installation projects. When the cold sets in, most of their units have plows removed and special frost trenchers installed. “During the winter months, we deal with frost two to three feet deep,” said Randy Breeggemann, MVEC. “In these conditions, we can’t use plows so we transition to frost trenchers with a different chain formation to effectively dig through frozen ground.”

Standard chains use a cup tooth to scoop soils. This type of tooth is not effective in cold climates. Frost chains primarily use carbide teeth with a definitive point to effectively chip away at frozen soils. The teeth are also spaced differently, with stations pitched at an angle. Even when using a specialized chain, however, MVEC has found winter maintenance is a key to their success. 

“With many winters under our belt, we have found keeping teeth fairly fresh is important. We change our teeth more frequently in the winter, on average every 10 days if we’re trenching a lot. And it works best if you change all teeth at once, versus a few at a time,” said Breeggemann. 

As part of their winter maintenance routine, MVEC ensures all gears and bearings are well greased and chain tension is tight, to help keep debris and sand from eating away at the components. In addition, the fleet of trenchers are kept in a heated building when not out at a job, making sure all components have time to dry out and gears have time to thaw. 

“On really cold days, we start our machines in the morning to warm up hydraulics and oils. We leave them running whenever possible as well. It is harder on the machine to start and stop it in cold weather,” added Breeggemann. 

Another way MVEC stays productive through the winter is with the help of their local Ditch Witch dealership—Ditch Witch of Minnesota and Iowa. “From servicing to spare parts, they are always responsive and working to meet any request we have,” said Breeggemann.

HYDRAULIC BREAKER
Used for construction and demolition, our breakers can be used to break up asphalt, concrete or even clay. The hydraulic hammer is perfect for any small or medium job you might have. More up-time in the field is always the goal, and with only two moving parts and a few seals, there’s no reason for down-time.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

VACUUM LIFT
Handle 10 times the heavy loads such as steel road plates and concrete slabs with a vacuum lift attachment. The constant vacuum pressure eliminates the need for conventional methods that may damage materials and cuts man-hours in half, allowing operators more time to focus on the job.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

BACKHOE
Easily move materials for rebuilds, new construction, footings, utility repairs and more with this compact and versatile attachment.
Compatible Models

SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

STUMP GRINDERS
Featuring a heavy-duty boom design, powerful stump grinding attachments quickly shred stumps down to nothing. Easy maneuvering from stump to stump and increased visibility turns more ground stumps into more profit.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

MULTITASK TOOL
Your multipurpose tool for the ultimate multi-tasker is here. Engineered to grab tight to heavy materials and move them with ease and precision, the multi-task tool is your go-to for heavy applications. Easy to operate with convenient, functional levers.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

CORE DRILL
With the MC-450 coring attachment, utility maintenance is simple and less disruptive. Featuring intuitive controls and an integrated water tank, the MC-450 is the perfect choice for quick cuts and a more productive coring process. A fully adjustable 0 to 280 rpm speed allows for enhanced control and greater productivity.
Compatible Models

SK1050, SK1550

SOIL CULTIVATOR
Prepare food plots, gardens, and landscaping projects with a soil cultivator. It gets land ready by stirring organic material back in the soil for a healthier, more stable lawn. Buries the biggest of rocks for a looser topsoil.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

BLADES
Whether you’re looking to increase dump height or digging depth, attaching a backfill blade is an easy way to save manpower on your jobsite while working with precision and timeliness. Available in various widths.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

AUGER DRIVER
Ideal for landscaping and tree care, an auger attachment will expedite hole creation and allow operators to quickly plant trees or install fence posts than if they were hand-digging or relying on a hand-held auger. Available in 6" to 30" diameters.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

TILLER
Tough and effective tillers prepare your garden by breaking up tough soil and removing unwanted weeds. Available in 4' width.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

GRAPPLES
Tree grapples come with 48" or 57" openings to efficiently remove logs and debris from the jobsite. It has an excavator style boom design with a powder coat finish and a cylinder lock for increased safety. Brush grapples available with a gap opening of 29" and widths of 42" or 54".
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

CARRY ALL LEVELER
One of our most simple yet versatile attachments, the Carry-All Leveler is perfect for carrying bulky material, leveling soil and adding a flat, smooth finish to your project. Available in 49" width.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

BUCKETS
Turn one machine into a multi-functional workhorse with versatile Ditch Witch® SK attachments. From landscaping and hardscapes to tree care and construction-grade tasks, your stand-on skid steer can take on more than you think. We've got you covered with a variety buckets from 4-in-1 to heavy and light material buckets. Widths range from 34" to 66".
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

PALLET FORKS
Take on your heaviest loads with precision and dependability with Ditch Witch pallet forks. They easily attach to any of our skid steers and can easily accessorize with hay spikes, brick guards, and much more to add even more ROI. Available in widths ranging from 36-48.75" and lengths from 36-48".
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

MICROTRENCHER
Fiber installation and other street-located work is rapidly growing. A microtrenching attachment is key for operators looking to get into fiber installation at the street level. They cut both concrete and asphalt in controlled increments so contractors don't need to stop traffic. Maximum width options are 0.5-1.5” or 2” with maximum depths of 12” or 16”.
Compatible Models

SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

ROTO WITCH®
The Ditch Witch Roto Witch® attachment is used for short bores underneath sidewalks, driveways and other obstacles. It offers great digging performance while minimizing jobsite restoration. Compatible with numerous Ditch Witch stand-on skid steers, the Roto Witch attachment can bore and backream up to 12" (300 mm) in diameter.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

PLOW
Install fiber and other utilities quickly with a vibratory plow attachment for your skid steer. It creates less ground disruption and cleanup than traditional trenching to get the job done faster. Available in maximum depths of 14" and 24".
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

POWER RAKE
Clean, level and prep jobsites or smooth and loosen soil for sodding with a rake attachment. Most rake attachments require 10 to 14 gpm, but the higher horsepower creates even more drum torque to tear through the most demanding soil types. Width measures 4'.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

MICROTRENCHERS
Fiber installation and other street-located work is rapidly growing. A microtrenching attachment is key for operators looking to get into fiber installation at the street level. They cut both concrete and asphalt in controlled increments so contractors don't need to stop traffic. Maximum width options are 0.5-1.5” or 2” with maximum depths of 12” or 16”.
Compatible Models

SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

ROTO WITCH®
The Ditch Witch Roto Witch® attachment is used for short bores underneath sidewalks, driveways and other obstacles. It offers great digging performance while minimizing jobsite restoration. Compatible with numerous Ditch Witch stand-on skid steers, the Roto Witch attachment can bore and backream up to 12" (300 mm) in diameter.
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550

PLOWS
Install fiber and other utilities quickly with a vibratory plow attachment for your skid steer. It creates less ground disruption and cleanup than traditional trenching to get the job done faster. Available in maximum depths of 14" and 24".
Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000

TRENCHER

Stay efficient on large jobsites with a trencher attachment for your skid steer. It’s a smart alternative to large, specialized equipment for utility installation and landscaping jobs. Available in standard 6”, 8” and 12” maximum widths with maximum depths of 36", 38", 48” and 55.5”.

Compatible Models

SK600, SK800, SK900, SK1050, SK1550, SK3000