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Hot and Cold in Utah

LH855D is the key ingredient to Michael Roundy’s new thinning system in Utah’s beautiful Dixie National Forest.

– Paul Iarocci

Unlike many loggers, Michael Roundy, member of Barco LLC in Washington, Utah is quite geographically isolated from other contractors. He performs prescription thinning for the US Forest Service in Dixie National Forest, often working at elevations up to 3 350 m (11,000 ft).

Utah landscape

Barco is typically harvesting bugkill spruce mixed with a small percentage of green timber. This is a fuel reduction, salvage and stewardship thinning program and it is important to preserve the saplings and juvenile trees so that the forest can naturally regenerate, maintaining overall health and a wide age range. There is variation in size and diameter and typically a good deal of steep terrain.

Two images are compared: Barco's thinning operations before and after. On the Left the before image shows a dense forest, on the right, the after image shows a much thinner forest.

Before and after. Barco’s thinning operations in Dixie National Forest have multiple goals including fuel reduction, salvage and stewardship.

Michael explains that traditionally, the cutting work was performed with a track feller buncher. Skidders brought full trees to a hot deck where the timber was processed with a stroke delimber. When Michael began logging, he adopted this system and was achieving six to seven 40 ton loads per day. However, he was never particularly happy with it. The decks tended to be congested and potentially dangerous with skidders, the stroke delimber, loaders and trucks all vying for position. Bottlenecks occurred because inevitably, the skidders were waiting on the stroke delimber before dropping a load or the stroke delimber would starve for wood if the skidders could not keep up. The balance and flow required for hot logging just wasn’t there.

Although Michael was unhappy, there weren’t many contractors to bounce ideas off of. In fact, he figures there is not another active logging contractor for at least 400 km (250 miles) in any direction. So Michael did much of his research on the internet. He poured over manufacturer websites, contacted owners and operators through social media and watched a heck of a lot of YouTube videos.

Three middle aged males stand in front of a Tigercat LH855D

Michael Roundy (right) with loader man, Ephraim Nyborg and LH855D operator, Dave Yaffe.

Much of the research focused on processors and how he could change his system by replacing the stroke delimber. “This was all driven by safety, utilization and production,” says Michael. Rather than have one central hot deck, Michael envisioned several landings. The feller buncher would be cutting far ahead of the rest of the system and the skidders would pull to one of several predetermined cold decking areas. A loader would be on hand to pile the decks to a sixteen foot (5 m) height. As skidding progressed along the cutblock, the skidder and loader would advance to the next cold deck, optimizing skid distances. (Each cold deck is directly accessible by the haul trucks.) The processor would work from deck to deck processing the trees without any interference from other machines and later the loaders would come back to load the trucks.

Older loggers that had previously worked the region said it would not work because of the slopes. “They didn’t think we would have the room in the landings and thought that the processors would be fighting the cold decks,” explains Michael.

Where I come from every processor guy wants an 855. That machine is a champion.

– Dave Yaffe, Barco LLC

“In order to change my system, I had to gather information through the internet and word of mouth through social media. It felt like a big gamble even after studying for three years,” Michael explains. “When you ask people on social media, 90 percent say that for our conditions, the best processor is a Tigercat 855 with a leveling undercarriage. It was a big gamble but it paid off. Michael ended up purchasing a Tigercat LH855D leveling harvester equipped with a 600 South Star processing head from Kevin Cotton at Titan Equipment. “I needed cooling, flow and horsepower and that is the reason I bought the Tigercat. I am so isolated here and do not have close-by service support. I may have considered a different machine but I needed to have the reliability and that is another reason I needed the Tigercat.”

Sun shines through the trees illuminating a LH855D as harvests a log.

The key to the new system is the LH855D.

Expert processor operator Dave Yaffe, who has been operating the LH855D since it was new sums up its performance pretty efficiently, “Where I come from every processor guy wants an 855. That machine is a champion.”

Michael saw almost immediate benefits upon changing the system. His production tripled from six or seven loads per day to an average of eighteen loads per day. Barco’s number one product is house logs. The dead spruce trees make excellent material for log cabin construction right up until four years after the tree has died. Anything that won’t make a house log goes to the local firewood mill which, through distributors, supplies firewood to retail stores throughout the US southwest. However, he also added a new marketable product.

I am so isolated here and do not have close-by service support. I may have considered a different machine but I needed to have the reliability and that is another reason I needed the Tigercat.

– Michael Roundy, Barco LLC

Due to the length of the trees and the time consuming stroke delimbing cycles, all the trees were previously topped at eight inches (200 mm). It just didn’t pay to have the stroker spend any more time handling the tree. With the processor, Michael is capturing and merchandising all those additional sticks – either as an input for the firewood mill or more commonly as a product that is sold to a shaving mill to be made into horse and turkey bedding. “My slash piles dropped by half,” says Michael.

A large pile of logs in a row.

Replacing the stroke delimber with a processor tripled production while cutting slash piles in half and adding a new marketable product. Many of the logs in this pile would have been wasted previously.

Loader operator Ephraim Nyborg has been with the company for almost four years. He loads trucks and can fill in everywhere in the operation. He explains that the LH855D has also improved loading efficiency from 90 to 45 minutes per truck. (Barco also does its own log hauling.) Previously, in order to maintain production, the stroke delimber operator was forced to pile the logs indiscriminately. Then Ephraim was required to sort the products during loading. Now the harvester can sort all the different products neatly and efficiently.

The Tigercat 620E emerges from the tight skid trail.

The Tigercat 620E emerges from the tight skid trail. Clever use of the corridors
minimizes site disturbance and makes Turnaround® an important feature.

One interesting thing to note, the cold decks are stacked with loaders rather than the skidders. While this improves skidder productivity, there is another reason – skidders tend to break the expensive logs. Some of the naysayers thought that adding yet another machine to the system would mess up the costing. However, Michael figured all this in advance and now asserts that the extra loader totally pays off. In addition, since Barco also has a construction side consisting of roadwork, aggregate and equipment hauling, Michael can bounce around operators between log loaders and excavator dirt jobs which makes adding loaders and managing labour easier.

Contract faller Terry Roseberry in front of his Tigercat LX830C with Tigercat district manager, James Farquhar.

Contract faller Terry Roseberry in front of his Tigercat LX830C with Tigercat district manager, James Farquhar.

Terry Roseberry, a long time Tigercat customer active in California and southern Oregon, has been contract falling for Barco with a Tigercat LX830C for about a year. Terry’s careful felling and strategic bunching combined with a clever use of skid trails minimizes soil disturbance and maiming of the smaller trees and saplings. Hagan Brian, the operator of the Tigercat 620E, makes good use of the Turnaround® seat, shuttling up and down the steep skid trails, without ever having to turn the machine around. Together the Barco crew and Terry are taking forests in poor health littered with deadwood and turning them into expertly thinned tracts that not only provide a good, sustainable yield but will also see excellent health, reduced fi re hazard and new growth in the future. Aesthetically – and aesthetics are important in a recreational area such as this – the result is outstanding.

A Tigercat track feller buncher uses careful selective felling and strategic placement of the bunches save the juvenile trees visible in the foreground.

Careful selective felling and strategic placement of the bunches save the juvenile trees visible in the foreground.

Additionally, and very important for Michael, the efficiency of his system allows him to provide his crew members with a safe, lucrative and quality working environment. Michael quips, “If we can’t provide our guys a good living and good stability and a nice, safe environment than what are we doing this for?”

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