Designed to handle big timber and the slopes
IN JUST a couple of years, with AB Equipment at the helm, the Tigercat machine population in New Zealand has exploded from a handful of units to over 120. It seems that a confluence of factors is behind the exponential growth. A country with especially severe boom and bust forestry industry cycles, New Zealand has of late been enjoying robust demand for pine logs in India, China and Korea. Lower currency valuation in comparison to neighbouring Australia has made the country especially attractive to Asian markets.
The strong local economy and the massive rebuild effort following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 has resulted in a decidedly firmer domestic market for higher grade logs marketed to local sawmills for domestic consumption.
The supply is there as well. With rotations ranging from 25-30 years and producing average piece sizes ranging from one to four tonnes, it is evident that Radiata pine grows very well in New Zealand.
Many plantations are coming on stream with a current overall sustainable capacity of around 30 million tonnes annually. Fly into any forestry region and it is easy to see from the air that every single bump on the landscape seems to be planted with Radiata.
Future Forests Research Limited (FFR), a partnership forged in 2007 between the New Zealand forest industry and Scion, a forest research organization, indicates that the proportion of the national forest harvest from steep hill country (which is defined as exceeding 20 degrees of slope) is currently 44% of the total harvest. This number is forecast to rise to 53% by 2016 and to over 60% by 2025.
The combination of steep slopes and big timber just screams for purpose-built steep terrain harvesting systems which just happens to be a Tigercat specialty.
Sales specialists at AB Equipment along with the Tigercat people on the ground in New Zealand have done a great job explaining the merits of purposebuilt track carriers and high capacity skidders for tackling the slopes and oversize wood and most recently, the 880 logger as the go-to machine for roadside processing.
Dave Paul Logging
Dave Paul, based in Dunedin, in the south-eastern corner of the South Island has a 75 000 tonne contract with the Municipality of Dunedin.
Interestingly, the municipality itself owns a vast chunk of mountainous forest land surrounding the city and markets the logs to Asia. Dave personally operates a relatively new Tigercat LH855C harvester equipped with a 3 400 kg Satco 424 fall and delimb head. Dave says that the combination is comfortably handling fairly big trees, averaging around 1.5 cubic metres (1.65 tn) on slopes up to 36 degrees.
He likes the powerful tractive effort of the carrier and says that the clamshell hood enclosure is a real positive when it comes to daily maintenance. Going from a fixed lower to Tigercat’s R7-150L-2 leveling undercarriage, Dave says he feels a lot fresher at the end of the day, compared with operating his previous machine.
While not a true harvesting head, the Satco 424 does have feed rollers, enabling Dave to fell the tree and perform a rough and quick delimbing job before shovelling it to an advantageous location for the skidder. The site had its share of crooked, forked and heavily limbed trees on the stand; knocking some of the limbs off in-stand decreases weight and drag resistance, increasing skidder productivity and reduces fuel consumption and drivetrain wear. (The Radiata is very heavy with a ratio of one cubic metre per tonne. Compared to a region like British Columbia with similar harvesting conditions, the various species range from 0.55-0.8 tonnes per metre with very few limbs.
Dave, who purchased the first Tigercat skidder on the South Island, a 630C, recently traded for 635D skidder and finds it to be an ideal skidder for his application. It handles the steep terrain and large timber as well as any soft soil conditions he encounters.
The 635D pulls to roadside where a Tigercat 880 equipped with the Woodsman Pro 800, a 5000 kg head, processes and merchandises.
Even with multiple sorts and poor stem form (resulting in added time to pick trees from the pile), the 880/Woodsman combination easily processes Dave’s 75 000 tonne annual quota. With 18 different grades, production averages of about 350 tonnes per day. Dave has hit on a system that meets the multiple challenges of steep terrain, large timber, many sorts and less than optimal stand quality.