Meet the Wilmer clan
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.