Meet the Wilmer clan

Australian Forests and Timber - - Steep Slope -

JIM WILMER & Sons’ log­ging site on the Scot­tish west coast, is an area like you might see on post­cards — cas­tles with lochs at their bases nes­tled among moun­tains. The com­pany’s John Deere 859MH Har­vester makes short work of a 20,000-cu­bic-foot clearcut on a sprawl­ing plan­ta­tion of Sitka spruce in the Ar­gyll For­est.

Scot­land is known for its rich his­tory, dra­matic land­scapes, golf tra­di­tions and fa­mous whiskey. The small min­ing vil­lage of Dailly and the sur­round­ing county of Ayr­shire is a fer­tile cor­ner of Scot­land that is rec­og­nized for its pota­toes — al­though the most fa­mous ex­port from the re­gion is the Bard of Ayr­shire and Plough­man Poet, Robert Burns.

Dailly is also home to Europe’s largest pri­vately owned log­ging op­er­a­tion, Jim Wilmer & Sons. Forty years ago, the founder took Burns’ words to heart: “Dare to be hon­est and fear no la­bor.” Armed with only a chain­saw and abun­dant am­bi­tion, he started out hand-felling wood be­fore pro­gress­ing to skylin­ing, or ca­ble log­ging. He pur­chased his first trac­tor in 1979. To­day, Wilmer runs the com­pany with the help of sons David and Gary and daugh­ter Amanda. The com­pany em­ploys over 85 peo­ple and pro­duces more than 940,000 cu­bic me­tres an­nu­ally.

The com­pany logs pri­mar­ily Sitka spruce in hilly en­vi­ron­ments with slopes up to 50 de­grees. “In the early days, half of my sites would be sky­lined, but to­day we are ask­ing our ma­chines to tackle in­creas­ingly tough con­di­tions,” Wilmer ex­plains. That’s where John Deere tracked har­vesters come in.

To­day, Wilmer op­er­ates a fleet of har­vesters, in­clud­ing 11 with lev­el­ing cabs, to pro­vide a sta­ble plat­form for log­ging on dif­fi­cult slopes. His new Deere 859MH Har­vester is fit­ted with the ver­sa­tile Waratah H290 head: “What a ma­chine. The way it pow­ers the head is un­be­liev­able, and it just doesn’t know when to stop on a hill. The strength of the boom is also im­pres­sive.”

The 859MH/H290 com­bi­na­tion is in­cred­i­bly ca­pa­ble in mixed stands.

On the site we vis­ited, it worked a block of .8-me­ter Sitka on a 45-de­gree slope and an­other block of poor growth of .2-me­ter stems. The two-speed trans­mis­sion en­sures the har­vester has enough power for the big stems and enough speed to en­able high pro­duc­tion in poor growth ar­eas. The Rapid Cy­cle Sys­tem (RCS) boom also de­liv­ers high pro­duc­tiv­ity in these chal­leng­ing ar­eas, al­low­ing the op­er­a­tor to smoothly con­trol boom, stick, and felling-head tra­jec­tory with a sin­gle joy­stick. Wilmer ac­quired his first John Deere har­vester in 2006 — a 903J equipped with the H290 head, a ma­chine that con­tin­ues to pro­vide ex­cel­lent ser­vice de­spite hav­ing cut “ev­ery big ugly tree in South­ern Scot­land,” says Wilmer. “It’s been a great head for us. Very pro­duc­tive, yet it has held to­gether well on the big­gest, tough­est sites.”

At the con­trols of the 859MH is op­er­a­tor Wil­lie Simp­son. Like Wilmer,

he first en­tered the Scot­tish woods 30 years ago armed with a chain­saw be­fore mov­ing into sky­lines and har­vesters. Hav­ing run many hours on tracked har­vesters, he’s well qual­i­fied to judge the 859MH: “It’s in a league of its own. The sheer climb­ing abil­ity and boom power put it on a dif­fer­ent level. The way the ma­chine pow­ers the head is phe­nom­e­nal. And Deere re­ally got the cab right. It’s ob­vi­ous they spoke to op­er­a­tors. The vis­i­bil­ity, com­fort, and re­fined con­trols make the ma­chine very pro­duc­tive.”

Ste­wart’s son Con­nor runs one of the John Deere 1910E For­warders. Both op­er­a­tors claim the 1910E is the only for­warder ca­pa­ble of ex­tract­ing wood from where the 859H is work­ing. Wilmer cur­rently runs nine 1910Es, with two more on or­der.

The com­pany’s fleet of over 70 ma­chines in­cludes 52 Deere mod­els.

“Over the years, we have found Deere ma­chines to be in­cred­i­bly re­li­able and pro­duc­tive in our de­mand­ing con­di­tions,” says Wilmer.

Ser­vice and sup­port from their lo­cal John Deere Forestry Ltd. is a key rea­son Wilmer chose Deere. He char­ac­ter­izes the re­la­tion­ship as more of a part­ner­ship than sim­ply a trans­ac­tional al­liance: “Our lo­cal guys un­der­stand our busi­ness. They go the ex­tra mile to en­sure the ma­chines stay up and run­ning through parts avail­abil­ity and a good ser­vice net­work of skilled tech­ni­cians.”

It’s in a league of its own. The sheer climb­ing abil­ity and boom power put it on a dif­fer­ent level.

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