De­signed to han­dle big tim­ber and the slopes

Australian Forests and Timber - - STEEP SLOPE HARVESTING -

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.

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