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BTB 53: Cedar Hill Services

On a wet and rainy February day in Arkansas, BTB and Tigercat district manager Heinz Pfeifer visited Jimmie McKinney, owner of Cedar Hill Services to learn about his business and his machines, a 234B loader, 724G feller buncher and 625E skidder.

– Bre Elbourn

Meet Jimmie McKinney, a logger from Warren, Arkansas and owner of Cedar Hill Services. When he’s not out logging, Jimmie spends his spare time roping calves in the rodeo, shoeing horses, or hanging with his lovely wife Tina and their “artillery of grandkids,” Diesel, Axel, Cannon and Steele. With a knack for coming up with nicknames, Jimmie McKinney is a southern cowboy who treats his customers’ land as if it were his own. He strives to own the best and most efficient equipment and he takes pride in leaving the land he has worked in finer condition than before the machines rolled through.


Jimmie McKinney with his son Justin and wife Tina.

Jimmie McKinney with his son Justin and wife Tina.


Bradley County, Arkansas

The state of Arkansas is home to nearly twelve billion trees covering over nineteen million acres (seven million hectares) – about 56% of the state. Of this, 41% is oak and hickory, 31% pine and other conifers, 10% is mixed stands of oak and pine, and about 16% is bottomland hardwood in forested wetlands (2018 Forest Survey, USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station). The majority of these forests are privately owned and managed.

Cedar Hill Services operates out of Warren in Bradley County. Jimmie deals with MidSouth Forestry Equipment sales specialist, Mark Pennington and general manager, Jeff Rains. Along with the Warren location, MidSouth has a second facility in Caddo Valley, allowing the company to readily serve Arkansas and north Louisiana. Tigercat district manager, Heinz Pfeifer has overseen this territory, as well as the states of Oklahoma and Texas, since 1998.


I TELL PEOPLE THEY BETTER NOT MESS WITH ME.
I’VE GOT A WHOLE ARTILLERY OF GRANDCHILDREN!

– Tina McKinney


625E skidder in wet terrain

Cedar Hill Services replaced two four-wheel skidders with the 625E. So far this year the company is ahead of schedule with just the one skidder.


First generation logger

Unlike many of the customers I have had the opportunity to meet, I was surprised to learn that Jimmie is a first generation logger. “I’ve been in the business for twenty-something years now.” Cedar Hill Services is named after a single cedar tree that sits on a hill in front of Jimmie and Tina’s home. As Tina explains, “We didn’t want to confine our name to just logging and we decided services would allow for other operations such as road building and maintenance.”

Cedar Hill Services started out logging with smaller machines, cutting for property owners that were reluctant to have larger machines on their property. Jimmie’s original fleet of machines included a feller buncher, a loader and a custom-made (by Jimmie) Massey Ferguson logging tractor. As the company grew, the private management tracts were not enough to support the business so Jimmie went on to bigger tracts, which meant bigger machines. Jimmie explains that, “You just can’t produce with small machines anymore. You’ve got to be set up where you can work all year round and with the smaller equipment you can’t do that.” Today, Cedar Hill Services employs five operators and six truck drivers. Jimmie’s son Justin operates machines, does all of the welding touchups and supervises the site when his father is not around.


Skidder pulling to a loader in wet terrain

Year-round logging

Working year-round at Cedar Hill Services means bearing extremely hot and humid summer temperatures and mild, wet winters. Soft winter soil conditions dictate a fair amount of machine flotation. Jimmie’s 625E skidder is fitted with 30.5 dual tires on the front and 28L duals on the back. The 724G feller buncher is equipped with 73×44-32 tires on all four corners.

The company currently contracts to Sorrells Sawmill out of Holly Springs, Arkansas. Jimmie’s two good friends Rick Reep and Jerry West are the procurement foresters for Sorrells. The crew primarily cuts plantation timber in the winter months and hardwood in summer, all within an 80 mi (130 km) radius of Warren. Tree size ranges from 6-26 in (15-65 cm) butt diameter. The six-wheel skidder becomes especially advantageous in the winter with the larger sized trees, when the load is heavier and the ground is softer.


Colour change

It was only three years ago, in November 2017, that Cedar Hill Services purchased its first Tigercat machine, a 234B loader. It was the one that changed it all, eventually turning Jimmie’s fleet of machines from green to yellow. Having success with the loader, Cedar Hill Services purchased a Tigercat 724G feller buncher with a 5702 felling saw six months later. When it comes to the cutter, Jimmie has to admit, “There’s not a whole lot of difference between the 724G and the previous machine we had, but we haven’t had any trouble with the Tigercat machine. It’s almost two years old and I don’t think we’ve done anything to it – might have had to put one injector in it. As far as fuel, the 724G is better.”


625e with dual tires

Skidder savings

The company’s latest purchase, a 625E skidder, has proven itself to be more than just reliable. The skidder has replaced two four-wheel skidders. “I sold one of them and kept the other for a spare, but we never really use it. We pulled almost 80,000 tons [72 600 t] with two skidders and this year we’re a little ahead of schedule with just the 625E skidder.”

Jimmie has seen significant savings with the six-wheel skidder. “The Tigercat machines, they’re tough machines for one thing and the fuel consumption is awesome. Not very much goes wrong with them. We’re tickled to death with the service from Tigercat and MidSouth. They have been really good to us. Our production has increased considerably with the Tigercats.”


Getting a leg up

Jimmie boasts that the six-wheel skidder is able to work in conditions and areas that his previous machines could not. His crew no longer has to return to any sites in the summer, when the ground is a little harder, to finish cleaning up areas that were previously inaccessible. The ability to stay on one site from start to finish, not only saves the company time and money, it leaves a better impression on the landowner.

In a county where most land is privately owned, leaving a lasting impression on the landowner can go a long way. “If I pull up on a job and I’ve got bent up, ragged machines with hydraulic oil spilling out, and grease everywhere, the customer is going to think I’m not looking after my equipment,” Jimmie explains. “And if I’m not looking after my equipment, why should the customer think I would look after his land and timber?”

With a fleet of durable and versatile Tigercat machines to get the job done year-round and MidSouth providing parts and service support, Cedar Hill Services won’t be letting a little rain stop them any time soon.