Windrow Turners vs Front-End Loaders

By Susie Solbrandt - GCM Enviro
Many composting sites consider turning compost with a front-end loader as effective enough and don’t see the need to invest in specialised compost turning machinery. 
Investing in composting equipment which is less versatile can be a costly process, and one not to consider without knowing the benefits.

We put the Backhus A50 up against a wheel loader to compare cost-effectiveness.

A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (“CIAS”) concluded that using front-end loaders or bulldozers to turn compost is the least efficient method. Industry experts concur that windrow turners are vital to the composting process, and the vast majority of compost sites are now using them as their turning method. But is it worth the investment if you already have a loader? We put these claims to the test:

We found that with an input of 60 000m³ per annum using the Backhus A50 Windrow Turner:


PROCESSING TIME is reduced from 12 weeks to 8 

Reducing cycle times allows a compost site to produce more compost annually.


TURNS PER WEEK increase from one to three

More frequent turning breaks particles down more quickly and provides an opportunity to optimize composting conditions, thus accelerating the process.


TURNING CAPACITY increased from 300m³ per hour to 1800m³

This enables a windrow composting facility to increase its annual throughput capacity.


TIME PER TURN is reduced from 55 hours to 6 hours

With the loader, turning is infrequent due to the length of time required for each turn.


FUEL CONSUMPTION is reduced by 16.67% annually

This is, in part, due to a 66% decrease in working hours required each year.


Aside from the data, there are also many other benefits to using a windrow turner over a loader. The improved quality of the actual turn makes the composting process much more effective.



  • Oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange is achieved consistently, a fast dump with a loader prevents this.
  • Oxygen provided promotes microbial activity, creating evenly spread microorganisms which break down the product.
  • Improved oxygen reduces the emission of methane.


  • The windrow turner completely mixes the material, the even blend maximises the interaction of carbon and nitrogen atoms



  • Releases excess heat which can kill microorganisms
  • Water can be applied during the process and dispersed evenly onto the row providing an optimal microbial environment


To find out more or to have a chat with us, call GCM Enviro on 02 9457 9399