Michigan Logger Prefers Supplier With Small Town, Hands on Style

CDC Logging Relies on Woodland Equipment; Tigercat Six-Wheel Skidder Tops Expectations
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L’ANSE, Michigan — Chuck Cavanaugh is from a small town, and he likes it that way. And as a logging contractor, he likes dealing with an equipment supplier where he can have a personal relationship with the owner, and where the supplier is quick to respond to his business.

The owner of CDC Logging Inc., Chuck has turned to Woodland Equipment in recent years to supply him with the logging machines his company needs. It’s been a good relationship because Ron Beauchamp Jr., the owner of Woodland Equipment, puts a similar value on the small town approach to doing business.

Woodland Equipment represents the Tigercat and TimberPro lines of logging machines, as well as other manufacturers of attachments. Chuck most recently invested in a new Tigercat 625E six-wheel skidder purchased from Woodland Equipment, a machine that has earned his rave reviews.

Chuck, 54, makes home in L’Anse, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula. L’Anse is located on the edge of Lake Superior at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is the northernmost region of the U.P.

Chuck grew up on the Upper Peninsula and has lived there all his life. He’s also worked in logging all his life, ever since graduating from high school in 1982. Later that same year he went to work for a friend who was a logging contractor.

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Chuck has been in business for himself since 1987. He worked by himself for many years, subcontracting to another logger. Chuck started felling timber by hand with a chainsaw and later bought a Timberjack 380 cable skidder to get the logs to the landing.

A serious logging accident changed Chuck’s approach to logging in 1996 and prompted him into mechanization. He had girdled a large yellow birch tree about 30 minutes earlier. As he walked by it again, the tree fell on him.

Chuck suffered seven broken ribs, and his right leg and ankle were severely injured. His ankle protruded through his boot, and broken bones stuck through his leg. He was hospitalized for five days, and doctors later told him he would never be able to walk on his right foot again.

At the time of the accident, he was subcontracted for felling and skidding to another logger who harvested timber for Mead Paper. Ironically, the day of the accident, Mead Paper Co. notified loggers to stop the practice of girdling trees.

As a result of the accident, Chuck decided to invest in more equipment in order to allow him to work safely. The first machine he bought was a Timbco feller buncher. With the addition of the Timbco, now he was able to fell with a machine, top and limb the logs on the ground with a chainsaw, and skid them to the landing, where he contracted for slashing and loading operations.

That’s pretty much how he continues to do business today, although his company has grown, and he now operates two crews with a dozen employees. He contracts to harvest timber purchased by Triest Forest Products, a company further south on the U.P. that supplies pulp wood and saw logs to mills in the region.

Chuck’s company cuts mostly hardwood — a lot of hard maple, soft maple, and birch. About 80 percent of the company’s production is pulp wood, he estimated. CDC Logging normally does select cut harvesting. Both crews do treelength logging, which may be somewhat unusual in a region where cut-to-length logging has been established. “It works for me,” said Chuck, “so I’m not changing yet.”

Logs are felled mechanically, the logs topped and the limbs removed with chainsaws in the woods, and then skidded tree-length to a landing, where they are bucked with loaders and slasher saws. Triest arranges all trucking and uses contractors for hauling Chuck’s wood.

Chuck leads one crew with a TimberPro 735C harvester equipped with a Quadco 22B hot saw. The crew is rounded out with the Tigercat 625E skidder, a John Deere 748H grapple skidder, and a pair of Hood loaders with circle saw slashers.

The other crew is equipped with a Komatsu FXL430 harvester that is also paired with a Quadco 22B hot saw for felling. That crew has a John Deere 748G-3 grapple skidder with a 648G-3 as a spare, a Hood loader and slasher, and a John Deere 700J dozer for road work.

Beside the equipment operators, five men work on the ground with chainsaws, topping the logs and removing the limbs. The company uses Husqvarna chainsaws.

Chuck likes to get about 10-12 loads per day, or 40-50 for the week. “Thirty to 40 would be good,” he said. He tries to keep the crews working within a 50-mile radius when possible. “We like to sleep in our own beds at night,” he said.

Ron first met Chuck in 2014. Chuck had not done much business with Woodland Equipment over the years, but the two men are the same age and “hit it off,” said Ron. After about six months of relationship building, Chuck bought his first new machine from Woodland, his TimberPro with Quadco hot saw. “We’d become friends,” recalled Ron, “and he was ready to move forward.”

Chuck added a used machine six months later, and then the two men started talking about Tigercat’s six-wheel grapple skidders. Chuck already was convinced a six-wheel grapple skidder equipped with bogie tracks would be an asset to his business.

Woodland Equipment exhibited at the Great Lakes Logging & Heavy Equipment Expo in Escanaba, Michigan last year and brought a Tigercat bogie grapple skidder specifically for Chuck. “Chuck asked me months earlier to bring one to the show-so we did,” said Ron. The two spent a memorable day working through that details, and Chuck decided to order one.

“I’ve been looking for a six-wheel drive skidder the last 20 years because of ground conditions,” said Chuck. The work he does for Triest is on private and state forest lands. “You have to leave a small impact,” said Chuck. “I always thought that (a six-wheel skidder) would be the answer.”

The Tigercat 625E arrived about three months after Chuck placed his order, so his company has plenty of experience with it through the winter, spring and summer.

Chuck was not satisfied with earlier six-wheel skidders because of their speed. “This one’s quick,” he said. “It has good hydraulics…Low fuel consumption. It’s very good. It’s even better than I expected it to be, and I have pretty high expectations.”

Chuck ran the new Tigercat 625E for several days when it first arrived, but a crew employee normally operates it while Chuck is at the controls of the TimberPro 735C. “He loves it,” said Chuck. “It’s very smooth…It’s very operator friendly.”

The terrain can be very, very steep, noted Chuck. “I don’t get the best terrain most of the time,” he said.

Chuck runs bogie tracks on the Tigercat 625E for winter and wet conditions, and as of the beginning of August he still had them on the machine because of plentiful rain this summer. The region has been receiving about 1-½ inches of rain almost every week, he indicated.

The Tigercat 625E is “better than what I expected,” added Chuck, in pulling power, flotation, and reducing ground disturbance. In fact, Chuck has been so impressed with the machine, he dubbed it ‘the Freak.’

Tigercat manufactures a number of skidders in four-wheel models, including a cable skidder, and also a series of six-wheel models, including a clambunk skidder. Tigercat six-wheel skidders range from the 615E, with a 203 hp Tier 4 engine, to the 635G, the largest and most powerful with a 285 hp Tier 4 engine.

All models feature hydrostatic drive, providing excellent performance in tough terrain because full tractive effort is available at any engine speed, and wheel spin is minimized. The simplified drive control eliminates gear shifting.

Combined with electronic control technology, the Tigercat hydrostatic drive system enables the skidder to operate at variable rpm, automatically increasing engine speed when more horsepower is demanded. The result is improved fuel economy.

Tigercat skidders are equipped with high capacity dual cylinder grapple options with wide tip-to-tip opening to easily gather scattered bunches, the company’s Turnaround® two-position seat that rotates with full rear-facing machine control, and more operator friendly features in the cab.

(For more information on Tigercat, which offers a complete line of purposebuilt forestry machines, and its product line, visit https://www.tigercat.com/products/ forestry-machinery/.)

Chuck likes the idea of doing business with a machinery supplier that is locally owned. Ron is “a small town kind of guy,” said Chuck. “It works.”

“Ron has to answer to himself,” he added.

Woodland Equipment is only a phone call away, and the company’s dealership on the Upper Peninsula is in Iron River, a mere 50 miles from Chuck’s home. “And they’re really good,” said Chuck, responsive and providing effective over-the-phone troubleshooting as well as service and support.

“I think we’re a little bit different that way,” said Ron. “We prioritize keeping our customers up and running.” For example, if a customer calls for technical assistance, Woodland Equipment gets their service manager on the phone right away to field the call. “We don’t make them wait,” said Ron. “We interrupt what the service manager is doing on the floor.”

Chuck concurred. “He’s treated me very well,” he said.

Business has been steady this year, and mill prices are stable, said Chuck, who is a member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen and the Michigan Association of Timbermen Self Insurer’s Fund (MATSIF) for worker’s compensation. In his spare time he enjoys bear hunting, deer hunting, and boating, and spending time with his children and family, including his wife of three years, Andrea, who handles the book keeping for the company.

Chuck’s first wife, Kathy, became ill and passed away about 10 years ago. During that period, working as a logger enabled him to earn enough to take care of his wife and family, and it also provided him the freedom to tend to her. He worked three days a week and drove six hours to visit her in a hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, and in the meanwhile raised their two children.

“That’s why I’m still in logging,” he explained. “It gave me the time and money to take care of my wife.”