Versatile TimberPro TB 830 combination harvester and forwarder allows logger to navigate ups and downs of timber market.
CRANDON, Wisconsin — Conjure up your favorite image of a dedicated and individualistic cowboy, riding the range, tackling jobs and efficiently moving on to the next serious work to be done. Then, substitute Todd Mihalko for the cowboy and a TimberPro® TB 830 combo unit for the horse.
Now, you have got a pretty good image of the resourcefulness that defines Todd Mihalko Logging, the company Mihalko established in 2001.
“I am one guy, one machine,” said Mihalko. “I have very low overhead. I am able to cut my own timber and forward my own [logs].”
Mihalko bought a TimberPro TB 830 combination harvester and forwarder in 2007. Until that juncture, he had been running with one employee and two machines.
A drop in timber prices first caused Mihalko to lay off his employee and subsequently to consolidate his equipment. “I was switching back and forth [between machines],” he explained. It was costing time and money.
Mihalko chose a Log Max® 7000 head for his TimberPro TB 830. “This processing head will cut up to a 28-inch tree,” said Mihalko. The Log Max 7000 is a perfect match for the hefty hardwoods, aspens and conifers of northeastern Wisconsin.
“Anything I can get the head around, I will cut,” said Mihalko. So infrequently must he put his Jonsered chainsaw in service that he sometimes forgets what it looks like, he explained.
Aptly enough, Crandon, Wis., home to Mihalko’s company, is part of Forest County, a section of Wisconsin that meets the western border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. From the start, though, Mihalko’s TimberPro has seen service well beyond the boundaries of its home state.
Soon after Mihalko bought the TimberPro TB 830 combo unit in 2007, the market for timber in the Badger State became so weak that he sought opportunity elsewhere. And he moved the machine to Montana to work for Plum Creek. All went well until 2009 when the housing market sank and the construction-related products from Montana forestlands were not in demand.
Mihalko soon found work with Northern Clearing in Louisiana, laying timber mats for pipeline work. After seven months in the Pelican State, he and the TimberPro TB 830 headed to Minnesota to do mat placement on another pipeline, again for Northern Clearing. Thus, for about 14 consecutive months, it was the grapple on the forwarder seeing sustained service. (Northern Clearing took care of all machine transport.)
When Mihalko is using the TimberPro TB 830 to harvest and forward in Wisconsin, he likes to stay relatively close to Crandon. “It depends on where the work is,” he said. “One-hundred miles away is as far as I like to go.”
In addition to the varied U.S.-based jobs that Mihalko has taken on using the TB 830, he has become a trainer for TimberPro, which is headquartered in Shawano, Wis. “When I purchased my TimberPro, Pat Crawford [the owner of TimberPro] was impressed because I was using the machine as it was designed.”
With quick succession, Mihalko went from being featured in a demonstration video for TimberPro to doing training for the company in Uruguay. He next went to Chile. Back in the United States, he demonstrated the operation of the TB 830 in Missouri and Maine. Most recently, he spent two weeks in Brazil.
What was the Brazil demonstration like? “They were harvesting eucalyptus, eight years old, 100 feet tall, six to eight inches in diameter at breast height,” said Mihalko. In Brazil, he actually demonstrated only the forwarder capabilities of the TB 830. In all other engagements, he has demonstrated both the harvester and the forwarder capabilities of the machine fitted a Log Max 7000 head and in one instance, a Log Max 6000 head.
The speed with which Mihalko can switch between the harvesting head and the grapple attachment on the TimberPro TB 830 speaks to the ease of using a single machine. “I can switch it out in seven or eight minutes,” he said.
The Log Max 7000 head that Mihalko has used since 2007 has approximately 7000 hours on it. That head now resides on a TB 830 purchased new in 2012.
In June 2012, Mihalko lost his original TB 830 when much of it burned in the woods. He needed a new machine fast; and he explained that his relationship with Pat Crawford helped expedite building of the new machine.
“I started with [the new machine] in October ,” said Mihalko. “I bought it through Pioneer Equipment.” Pioneer Forestry Equipment is located in Rhinelander, Wis.
Approximately two years ago, Pioneer became the dealer for the territory in which Todd Mihalko Logging is located. Mihalko quickly developed a good working relationship with team members there, especially Hakan Berg and Dan Linsmeyer with whom he talks often.
“Most of the stuff, I can fix on the own,” said Mihalko. “We can just solve [any issue] over the phone. I do all my own maintenance.”
After serving in the U.S. Army for two years (1988-1990), including one year in Korea, Mihalko studied diesel engine mechanics at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. He already knew a great deal about the subject, having learned about diesel engines, welding and the logging business from his paternal grandfather.
By the time he was 10 years old, Mihalko was assigned the task of sweeping the shop at the logging company his paternal grandparents owned. Early on, his grandmother drove an oxen- or mule-pulled sled to move logs; later, she was behind the wheel of a logging truck.
As it happens, although the professional relationship between Mihalko and Steve Ory, the owner of Pioneer Forestry Equipment, is just a couple of years old, the two men have known each other since childhood. Both men have deep roots in the timber industry.
“He’s a very good operator,” said Ory of Mihalko. “Obviously, he’s going to be [if selected by TimberPro].”
With the dependence that Mihalko’s business has on its TB 830, Ory was eager to help after Mihalko’s 2012 setback. “We took his burnt machine out the woods,” explained Ory, managing to salvage a few parts. “We got him up and running fast.”
Most readers know that TimberPro offers its buyers a choice of cab colors. Mihalko got the first machine in bright orange, new to the TimberPro palette.
Mihalko said he has had exceptionally good experiences with his equipment suppliers. When he took his first TB 830 to Montana in 2007, he was responsible for transporting it. Log Max sent a representative to the state to help Mihalko set up the machine.
“The support and service I get [from Pioneer and Log Max] is phenomenal – is great,” said Mihalko. “They take very good care of their customers.”
Like all machines in the TimberPro line, the TB 830 rotates through 360 degrees, so the operator can always be looking at the work being done. As compact as the eight-wheeled TB 830 is, it is also designed to support large harvesting heads. For instance, it can handle a Log Max 9000 head.
Mihalko credits TimberPro with aligning its machine sales with great dealers. He bought his first TimberPro TB 830 from Woodland Equipment in Iron River, Mich. Ron Beauchamp, president of Woodland Equipment, ensured that Mihalko got the head that best suited his needs.
Mihalko explained that Beauchamp recommended the Log Max 7000 as a head that would be as strong as it was durable. The head has proven to be both.
Trucking is not part of Mihalko’s operation. He forwards to a landing where lengths are picked up by log trucks.
After his military service and college and some time at a John Deere dealership, Mihalko joined his father’s logging company. “I started in business with my father in the fall of 1990,” said Mihalko. The company used chain saws and skidders until 1998 when the first harvester was purchased. “I was actually driving log trucks,” said Mihalko.
A member of the Timber Producers Association of Michigan and Wisconsin, Mihalko explained he always had the idea he would return to logging. “I went into the service to see different parts of the world,” he said.
Talk with Mihalko for just a minute or two and the passion for his profession that guides him day to day comes through immediately. “The more effort you put in, the better off you are,” said Mihalko.
The TimberPro TB 830 combo machine suits Mihalko’s solitary and often peripatetic way of working well. “It’s very low maintenance,” he said. “[It has] worked excellent for me.”
With the TimberPro TB 830 as a tool and partner, Mihalko has varied options for sustaining his business during fluctuations in the economy. And he has often exercised those options, traveling to pipeline work, for example. (In many ways, the TimberPro TB 830 combo unit truly embodies the hardworking spirit of this nation – cowboys and everyone else).
When Mihalko has free time, he likes to go to relax at nearby Lake Metonga. And he’s a sportsman. “I love bow hunting and fishing,” he said.