Tigercat propels J. Lauhon Logging – Davis Tractor and Equipment Now Serves Both

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Longtime fan of Tigercat gives two thumbs up to new Tigercat harvesting head.

HAMBURG, Arkansas – Reminiscing about the early days of J. Lauhon Logging, Inc., owner and founder Jackie Lauhon, conjures vivid memories. Jackie had two saws cutting and two pilers toiling to stack lengths. Emphasis is on toiling because the seven-foot lengths produced by the sawhands were piled manually.
Lauhon Logging got started working for Georgia-Pacific in 1987. Today, the company cuts for Plum Creek, having followed the shifts in corporate alignments involving the two companies. A great deal has changed, of course. Machines now handle all the hard work. And the approach to tracts, which include plantation and volunteer pine, often entails shovel logging.
Jackie relies on a big roster of equipment from Tigercat. Only recently, however, did he add a harvester head from Tigercat. In July 2009, Lauhon Logging purchased a new Tigercat 575 harvester head mounted on a Tigercat 250. The report he gave TimberLine in early October was a good one. “As long as that head keepings doing what it’s doing, I’ll keep it,” said Jackie.
The Tigercat 575 harvester head earns plaudits from Jackie for many reasons. Not only was its startup trouble free, but it also provided more punch from its first use. “Gary MacDonald came down from Canada and got it tuned to run to our specs,” said Jackie. “I know it outperforms” our previous head. “It runs faster,” he explained. (Gary is with Tigercat Industries, Inc., Paris, Ontario, Canada, the well-known company that produces full-tree, cut-to-length and vegetation management equipment.)
How fast is fast? “Thomas Martin, the 575 operator, claims he did a pile of small hardwood in 45 minutes that would have taken him two hours to process with the old machine,” said Jackie.
Every dimension of the purchase of the Tigercat head went smoothly. Jackie attributes the seamless interaction with the opportunity he had to buy a brand he trusts from a dealer whom he knows well. The dealer is Jonathan Davis of Davis Tractor and Equipment, LLC, a new Tigercat dealer for Arkansas. Jonathan and Jackie go back decades.
The two Iron Mule machines that Jackie purchased more than 20 years ago came from Davis Tractor. “I was buying those Iron Mules back in 1989 from Jonathan,” said Jackie. “When he took over Tigercat, that [coupled] two good things,” Tigercat was being sold by Jonathan. [See the Sidebar for more about Jonathan’s recent alliance with Tigercat.]
Faith in machine and dealer sealed the deal. But there was another bonus. “I was getting tired of two different pieces,” said Jackie, explaining that he likes having the carrier and the harvester head made by the same manufacturer. There is also a first. Lauhon Logging is the first company in the Land of Hope to deploy the Tigercat 575 head.
Performance is a must. “We probably do all of our own maintenance,” said Jackie. “We do regularly scheduled oil changes, all our own tires, we grease our equipment and trucks. We wash our equipment and trucks. Any major repairs are done by the dealership, but we always try to fix things on our own first.”
Method is one way to negotiate a mucky substrate. Equipment is another. The Tigercat machines in service at J. Lauhon Logging were purchased to allow maximum flexibility. For approximately eight months of each year, four Tigercat feller bunchers on rubber are used; they are a Tigercat 720C, 720D and two 724D models. There are also “two Tigercat 845 track feller bunchers” in service, explained Jackie. “Those are used when the weather gets bad because we shovel log.”
Shovel logging, or using the felled timbers as a road that is picked up as the log lengths are, is a good match for the more-often-than-not swampy land where Lauhon Logging cuts. “We build the roads with trees,” said Jackie. The lengths must be long enough “so skidders can use them as a road – 25-35 feet wide. When they get the wood up, they pick the road up” at the same time. It is a lot like “dominoes” with log lengths, said Jackie.
Four skidders keep the lengths moving. Three of them are Tigercat 630C model machines. Number four is a newbie. “I purchased a brand new one, a Tigercat E-620C, in 2009,” said Jackie. Three Tigercat track loaders, a Tigercat 240 and two Tigercat 245 models, complement the skidders.
In addition to the new Tigercat 250 processor with the Tigercat 575 harvester head, Jackie relies on three other processors. They are a Tigercat H845B with a Waratah HTH624 head and two Kobelco excavators, each of which is paired with a Waratah head.
That is a lot of Tigercat equipment. So how did Jackie first decide to give Tigercat a try? “In 1995, I purchased a Tigercat cutter,” said Jackie. “I think Caterpillar was selling. I ran it for four or five years. I just never had any problems.” The absence of problems was the key to a lasting relationship with Tigercat.
Indeed, Jackie said he was “very happy in 2000 when Tigercat got into the skidder market” and he bought Tigercat skidders soon after that. Being able to get his trusted Tigercat equipment from Jonathan and Davis Tractor and Equipment seems like a perfect fit. After all, the 5010 Iron Mule that Jackie purchased from Davis Tractor put Lauhon Logging on a successful path. “It was shortwood back in those days,” said Jackie. “Pulpwood crews would come in and get the shorter wood” after the log lengths were removed.
Today, Jackie’s company has 29 employees. The business began somewhat by chance. I drove log trucks the year I graduated high school, in 1980,” said Jackie. Seven years later Jackie decided to start cutting. J. Lauhon Logging does its own hauling with a fleet of Peterbilt trucks that is 10 tractors strong.
Most of the tracts where Jackie’s company works are within a 40-mile radius of the Hamburg, Ark. home of J. Lauhon Logging. Hamburg is part of Ashley County in the southeastern corner of the state. The town has approximately 3,000 residents.
“I was raised on a farm,” said Jackie. “My Daddy was a crop duster and a farmer. He quit in the spring of 1979.” The abrupt departure from crop dusting made Jackie surmise that his father did not want him to follow him into the sky for low and often dangerous flyovers.
J. Lauhon Logging belongs to the Arkansas Timber Produces Association, Southern Logging Cooperative and Arkansas Forestry Association. In 1998, J. Lauhon Logging was honored as the Georgia-Pacific Outstanding Logging Contractor. The company strives to keep up the pace, irrespective of substrate conditions. “We aim for at least 30 loads a day,” said Jackie. “More is better, but 30 will do.”
Angie Lauhon, Jackie’s wife, is also engaged in the business as the bookkeeper. She described her husband as someone with an industrious spirit. “Jackie goes,” said Angie. “He’s very production oriented. He could be described as ‘gung ho’ but I like to describe him as ‘passionate’ about his logging operation. He loves to put out the most wood; he loves to break records.”
For Jackie, each job offers the opportunity to achieve something more. “Set a production goal and he will do whatever it takes to meet it,” said Angie. Moreover, explained Angie, Jackie keeps a sharp eye on the opportunity to invest in new equipment in order to pick up speed while maximizing efficient use of fuel.
Angie concedes she takes a slightly different view than Jackie. “I think equipment should just run forever, but I don’t have to mess with it every day either,” she said. “I’d rather just sit here and manage the accounts.” But Jackie has the firsthand knowledge of equipment.
“Through the years, I believe I have run every piece of logging equipment on the market,” said Jackie. “After high school, I drove a log truck and then joined a local logging crew as a skidder operator.” He started logging with local logger Carl Jon Bierbaum, purchasing a used Iron Mule and soon adding a new Iron Mule in 1988 from Davis Tractor and Equipment to work as a shortwood contractor behind that operation.”
A certified teacher with a master’s degree in administration and supervision, Angie comes from a family of educators. As J. Lauhon Logging grew, Angie concluded she could no longer split her time between classroom and business; and she chose the business. She nearly matched her teaching salary the first year of full-time work at Lauhon Logging by shopping carefully for insurance coverage, thereby greatly reducing premiums.
“With today’s economy, you can’t let anything slide,” said Angie. “I check settlement sheets closely and watch fuel rates. I try to measure employee effectiveness. We are proud to be an Arkansas Voluntary Drug-Free Workplace. This certification also saves us a little on insurance rates.”
Cost-saving efforts encompass every dimension of the logging operation. “We apply for the Arkansas Local Sales Tax exemption quarterly on all our larger purchases,” said Angie. “We price insurance every time it is due. Dockage and load fines are huge concerns to me right now. It seems everyone is squeezing out all the profit they can so we must do the same. It’s the trickle-down effect.”
Reliable and durable equipment and a sharp focus on cost centers are big contributors to a successful business. But even bigger, perhaps, is the relation an owner has with his employees. “Don’t ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t do, treat them with respect and pay them well,” said Jackie, summing up his perspective on employee retention.
Loggers are “getting up early, fighting the elements day after day, always being at the mercy of the weather,” said Jackie. “My men should be paid well. I want each one to make a nice living.”
Being able to offer employment to others is part of the great reward that comes from owning a business. “If I won the lottery, I would give my job to my men,” said Jackie. “I’d never leave them high and dry. It’s just as much theirs as it is mine.”
Jackie relishes the professional life he has chosen. “I just try to do a good job,” he said. “I love the outdoors and the challenges that come with owning my own equipment and running my crew.” Political and intellectual affectations are things he shuns, he explained.
Zack Lauhon, Jackie’s son, is a freshman at Southern Arkansas University and a member of the university’s baseball team. Zack has played baseball for many years. “I enjoy coaching him and traveling with him during summer ball,” said Jackie.
When Zack worked at Lauhon Logging, Jackie made certain he got a real immersion experience. “I made sure he had the hardest of labor – my hopes were that he would study a little harder in college,” said Jackie. “It might have backfired; he enjoyed every minute of it.”
Davis Tractor Becomes Exclusive Dealer for Tigercat in Arkansas
On April 1, 2009, Davis Tractor and Equipment, LLC became the distributor for Tigercat equipment in Arkansas. Tigercat Industries Inc. announced the realignment of distributorships, which saw Davis Tractor becoming the exclusive dealer for Tigercat in Arkansas. To secure the distributorship rights, Jonathan Davis bolstered by a group of investors, bought rights from Tidewater Equipment Co.
The Davis Tractor and Equipment territory includes Arkansas, as well as nine parishes in the northern tier of neighboring Louisiana. Davis continues to operate from two longstanding locations in Warren, Ark. and Hope, Ark.
In business since 1983, Davis Tractor and Equipment aims to sell Tigercat for the long term. Besides offering the full range of Tigercat machines, Davis Tractor and Equipment sells attachments from CSI and Riley, trailers from Viking and engines from Cummins.
Selling and servicing Tigercat equipment at Davis Tractor and Equipment are many familiar, respected employees. Chris Lawson, Kevin Garrett, Eddie Herring, Darrell Windham, Todd Abbott, Donnie Williams, and Mike Flemister, who worked for Tidewater in Arkansas, now work for Davis Tractor. Two proven additions to the equipment sales department since Davis Tractor started in April are Jeff Hanson and John McKenney. Sam Denison manages the operations of the company as CFO.
Warren headquarters phone for Davis Tractor and Equipment is 870-226-0000; the phone number for the Hope satellite is 870-777-3352. Jonathan Davis can be reached by cell at 870-866-0952.