Canada”s maritime province located just adjacent to and east of Maine, is a region with abundant forest resources. The province”s forest products industry is picking up steam again.
DOAKTOWN, New Brunswick – New Brunswick, Canada’s maritime province located just adjacent to and east of Maine, is a region with abundant forest resources.
The province’s forest products industry is picking up steam again although it suffered when the economy nosedived not so many years ago. There were dozens of various mills running in New Brunswick at one time, although Sean Storey, whose logging company, S&S Logging Limited, is based in the region, recalled a period when not many of them were open.
“It is coming back some,” said Storey.
Storey, who turns 48 in May, lives and works in Doaktown, where he grew up. It is roughly in the center of New Brunswick. Imagine if you were in Bangor, Maine on I-95 driving north. If you followed it to the end of the interstate, you would be in Houlton, near the Canadian border. Doaktown is roughly 130 miles further northeast.
S&S Logging has come to rely on Log Max single-grip harvesters for its cut-to-length logging operations. In about the past 12 months, Sean replaced his equipment with the three Log Max 7000C harvesters, each mounted on a Tigercat H855C track carrier. All the Log Max harvesters are equipped with the Log Max Log Mate 500 computer system. The company also has a Valmet forwarder and a Ponsse forwarder. It contracts for all trucking.
Sean’s family has been in the logging business for generations, and he began in the industry by working for his father when he was still in high school – chainsaws and skidders. He briefly worked as a skidder operator for J.D. Irving, a large, multi-faceted corporation with a division for forestry and forest products. When a heart attack later forced his father out of the logging industry, Sean went into business for himself. He was one of the first loggers in the region to transition to cut-to-length logging in the early 1990s, according to Rob Moran, who represents Log Max in the region. Sean has continued to do contract logging work for J.D. Irving over the last 30 years.
S&S Logging employs about 18 workers during peak seasons. Although the company has mechanized logging operations, it also employs several men who work with Husqvarna chain saws. “They cut specialty products,” explained Sean, that are more suitable for felling and limbing by hand, such as huge white pine and hardwood veneer timber. For yellow birch that is being harvested for veneer, for example, a harvester operator may only see one side of the tree and may be unaware of a seam or defect on the other side. A man working on the ground has the opportunity to view the entire tree.
New Brunswick’s landscape is “a lot like Maine,” observed Sean. The terrain ranges from mostly flat to rolling hills. The central and northern portions of the province contain more rocks and hills. The terrain may slope as much as 30 degrees near brooks and rivers.
“Our stands are mostly softwood, but it’s always a mixture,” said Sean. Predominant softwoods are red spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, jack pine and white pine while principal hardwoods are yellow birch, white birch, red maple, sugar maple, beech and ash.
The company usually cuts all the timber on a block of land although some stands may be left if they contain species for which there is no market. Other contractors typically come in later and treat the land and plant seedlings.
Sean buys standing timber as well as contracts to harvest wood for J.D. Irving and other companies, such as Delco Forest Products. New Brunswick’s forest resources support numerous mills that turn out studs, lumber, oriented strand board, chips, and pulp and paper, and other forest products. Mills typically pay by the metric ton although some pay by cubic meter.
“We need harvesting heads…that can handle 95 percent of the trees in the block,” said Sean. Most private landowners want to sell all the wood on their land, and it’s not efficient to run both small and large machines to harvest different size timber. If a harvester can only cut half the timber on a tract, the company cannot be competitive on pricing, noted Sean. In addition, equipment that can harvest 95 percent of the timber means only a small percentage is felled by hand.
That’s a big reason why Sean has settled on Log Max harvesters. “They are, pound for pound, tough and as powerful – if not more – than any I’ve run…If I walk into a stand of wood, I want to be able to cut everything in it.”
Some other loggers in the region were already using Log Max harvesters by the time Sean bought his first one in 2005, and he consulted other loggers who had experience with them. His company ran other Log Max models before settling on the 7000C. “The 7000C and (Tigercat) 855 make a good package,” said Sean. “If you get too big a head on a small carrier, you don’t control the head. It controls you.”
Log Max makes a variety of single-grip harvesters of varying size and power, depending on the logging application, from thinning to final felling. Its harvesters are used for felling and processing at the stump as well as processing at the landing. The company also offers a fixed head model for control felling and bunching. (For more information about the company and its harvesters, visit www.logmax.com.)
Log Max, which has a facility about 100 miles southeast in Moncton where it performs installations and repairs, is known for the strong technical support it provides, said Rob. “We do a lot of service work over the phone.” In a 10-15-minute phone call, its technicians often are able to troubleshoot problems. “We’ve built up a pretty good reputation for that,” and also have a good parts inventory. “Loggers know they need support and service,” said Rob.
“The support was a big thing for me,” said Sean. Their dealer branch, Log Max Forestry, Inc., is also located in Moncton, which makes it about 90 minutes away, sometimes closer. So if S&S needs a Log Max part that it does not stock, it can easily send an employee to pick it up. “I don’t think waiting for a part has ever stopped us or kept us idle for days or a week,” said Sean. He praised the dealership and Log Max personnel for their over-the-phone troubleshooting ability. “Their knowledge of the product is second to none,” said Sean.
S&S Logging generally operates within about a 75-mile radius of Doaktown in any direction. The company “very seldom” works further away. His men prefer to work within a reasonable commuting distance from home, and there is no shortage of jobs for good equipment operators, according to Sean, so he wants them to be happy. “Most of my guys have been with me quite a while,” said Sean. “I’ve got good operators. They’re some of the best out there.”
“There’s lots of work in that radius to keep my machinery busy anyway,” he added.
About 15-20 percent of the company’s business comes from private stumpage – Sean buys forest land and stumpage. A good portion of this business is done with New Brunswick’s indigenous people, referred to as First Nations. In recent years the Canadian government has allocated 5 percent of the allowable timber harvest on crown land to First Nations, and Sean has been cutting timber on those lands for several years.
Sean selected his equipment to work in old growth timber and does final felling. The company works on tracts that may range from as small as 1 acre to 250 acres although he estimated the average is about 60 acres. The small jobs typically are parcels that were left uncut in the past. “Every tree has a home now,” said Sean, referring to the destination mills. “They need the wood.”
The company cuts timber ranging from pulpwood down to 3 inches to spruce that can get up to 24 inches and white pine that may go well over 30 inches. Average tree diameter is 15-16 inches, Sean estimated.
Sean endorsed the Log Max Log Mate 500 computer system. “It’s pretty user friendly,” he noted, and “makes the head work better.”
Rob agreed. “It makes the head a little more responsive,” he said, and the result is faster processing of the tree at the stump..
“There was no comparison in head performance,” said Sean. His equipment operators, who all have lengthy experience running machines, have praised the Log Mate 500, too. One operator who tried out the new system, “It was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know this thing could work so good,’ “said Sean. Another operator, who had not run a Log Max for 10 years, was equally impressed; his response, according to Sean: “I don’t know who developed this computer system, but whoever it is should get a raise.”
Sean purchased a Log Max harvester head without the Log Mate 500 and later purchased a second Log Max harvester with the computer system. Within a few short months he realized the difference. “It will pay for itself,” he said.
The Log Mate 500 system has been available from Log Max for about eight years, although we only introduced it about 3 years ago in Canada, noted Rob. It is a Windows-based system. If an operator is familiar with using a personal computer or Windows-based laptop, “it’s easy for them to get around” and navigate the Log Mate 500 system, he said.
Besides performing calculations for bucking, the Log Mate system stores the data and “builds a history of the product you’re doing,” noted Rob. The system optimizes that information for processing. The production data can be loaded in the form of reports and, depending on cell phone coverage, can be transmitted to mills.
The weak economy a few years back impacted private landowners the most, said Sean. “Everything’s supply and demand.” When the number of operating mills dropped from about 50-60 to about a dozen, there are fewer markets to sell wood, and prices for wood fall. However, the cost of harvesting and trucking doesn’t change. Many landowners were not willing to accept that. “They wanted the same price they got five or six years ago,” said Sean. “That became really hard.”
Sean downsized his business somewhat for a period of time, laying off a few operators who were able to find jobs elsewhere. Some mills, he noted, will keep their logging contractors running even if it means the mill loses money. “We were lucky enough,” said Sean, to keep working albeit at a reduced capacity.
It’s been a long, hard winter in the Northeastern U.S. and surrounding Canada. “Our winter’s been brutal,” said Sean, who decided he’d had enough and drove to Florida to vacation in April. There were times this past winter when the Log Max harvesters would sink almost out of sight in the snow. Crews found conditions difficult, but kept working. “Honest to God,” recalled Sean. “Every time we got up it was 20 below and snowing.”
“We have a lot of work coming up,” he said. “I’m going to be swamped.”