IRONS, Michigan —
Rothig Forest Products replaced an aging cut-to-length harvester and for the first time turned to Tigercat and its Great Lakes region dealer, Woodland Equipment.
Rothig Forest Products is located in Irons, Michigan, which is in the east-central region of the Lower Peninsula, about 33 miles almost due west of Cadillac. Irons, where the company has a shop and office, is within the vast expanse of the Huron-Manistee National Forests.
Ross Rothig began working in the woods summers as a teenager. He started Rothig Forest Products in 1977 after a few years working in construction and then a machine shop. At 73, he still manages the business and overseas all its operations.
Brian Rothig has been managing Dyer’s Sawmill, which he and his father bought in 1996. The mill, located over 30 miles southeast in Le Roy, cuts grade lumber and industrial lumber products, including railroad ties and pallet stock.
Rothig Forest Products has 17 employees. It can run four crews although it normally operated three in 2019. Average production is about 10 truckloads of wood per week for each crew. The employees include two foresters, three truck drivers, and two mechanics. Doug Nelson, who supervises the shop, does double duty driving a truck.
The company has a mixed fleet of timber harvesting equipment for cut-to-length logging operations. It includes two Ponsse Ergo harvesters, a John Deere 1270 wheel harvester, and the newest addition, a Tigercat 1165 wheel harvester. For getting the wood to the landing, it is equipped with two Komatsu 855 forwarders, a Ponsse Elk and a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder. Rothig Forest Products also is equipped with a John Deere 843 wheel feller buncher and a John Deere 748 grapple skidder. The company also has a Trelan 23L whole tree chipper.
For building logging roads the company uses a Case 1150 bulldozer. Rothig Forest Products does its own hauling and has four self-loading log trucks, three semi-tractors, two trucks for pulling chip vans, and a low-boy truck and trailer combination for moving equipment.
Rothig Forest Products buys standing timber on federal, state and private land. The company also contracts to harvest standing timber that Brian purchases for Dyer’s Sawmill. About half of the logging operations are for timber purchased by Rothig Forest Products, and the other are conducted for Dyers Sawmill. With abundant forest resources nearby, the crews normally go no more than about 60 miles to a job. “We’ll go up to 100 miles if we have to,” said Brian.
The terrain in the region is mostly flat but also can range into some fairly large hills. The forests generally are mixed stands of northern hardwoods, including oak, maple and aspen, to various pine species. “Right now we’re cutting a 1,500-cord aspen clear-cut,” said Brian.
Ross still operates heavy equipment — he builds most of the logging roads — and hauls a load of wood every day. The two foresters, Chris Yonkers and Clayton Pendley, prepare bids for jobs, buy timber, and deal with state and federal forest officials.
It was Brian’s decision to buy the new Tigercat 1165 in order to replace an aging Ponsse harvester. He is gradually transitioning to be more involved with the logging business. “I want to take some of the load off” his father, he said.
“We’ve been building a relationship with them since before we began representing Tigercat,” said Ron Beauchamp, general manager of Woodland Equipment.
It wasn’t Brian’s first dealing with Woodland Equipment and Tigercat. He bought a Tigercat 2160 forwarder for the sawmill earlier from Woodland Equipment to use in the mill’s log yard. “They’re the only ones that build a forwarder of that size,” he said. He had seen Tigercat equipment exhibited at the Great Lakes Logging & Heavy Equipment Exposition and appreciated the build quality of the machines.
Brian ordered the forwarder in 2017 and subsequently toured the Tigercat plant in Ontario where it was built. The quality of the build of the machine and the Tigercat personnel made an indelible impression on him. “They’re great people at Tigercat,” said Brian. And he was suitably pleased with the performance of the forwarder. It performed and has held up “exceptionally well,” he said.
That experience led him to turn to Woodland Equipment and Tigercat again when Rothig Forest Products needed to replace a harvester. Brian chose an 8-wheel Tigercat 1165 harvester, a new mid-size model between Tigercat’s largest and smallest wheel harvester models. “We were in the market for a rubber-tired harvester this size,” he explained. In fact, Tigercat announced the introduction of the 1165 last fall, and Brian purchased the first production machine.
Canadian-based Tigercat specializes in the design and manufacture of premium forestry equipment and specialized off-road industrial equipment. Tigercat forestry systems are designed to provide harvesting solutions at the lowest cost per ton. The company has 10 manufacturing facilities in southern Ontario.
The Tigercat 1165 is a mid-sized harvester well suited for thinning, selective cut and final fell applications. With strong swing and leveling capabilities, the 1165 is well suited for steep slopes. The machine is available in both six-wheel and eight-wheel drive configurations.
The Tigercat 1165 harvester is powered by the Tigercat FPT N67 engine, providing full emissions compliance for Tier 4 final regions as well as excellent fuel economy. Both Tier 4f and Tier 2 options deliver 282 hp at 2,000 rpm. The harvester blends high performance with strong fuel economy through the use of an advanced hydraulic system and Tigercat’s WideRange® drive. Dedicated pumps power the drive, harvesting head, crane, fan and cooling circuit functions. The 360-degree continuous swing upper turntable supplies strong swing torque.
The Tigercat 1165 uses the same swing components as the larger 1185 model as well as oscillating and articulating centre section components used on Tigercat forwarders. The new active oscillation balancing technology provides unparalleled machine stability even while travelling; this allows crane operation while driving, thus increasing productivity.
Tigercat’s patented long reach ER crane is energy efficient and provides the same action as a parallel crane but with simplified construction and less maintenance. The 30-foot crane comes standard for heads up to 4,000 pounds, and the 36-foot telescopic crane for heads up to 2,865 pounds.
The operator has excellent visibility in the quiet, comfortable, ergonomically designed cab. The hooked crane design and large windows provide a clear line of sight to the attachment’s working area and surrounding terrain.
Leveling capacity is 24 degrees backward, 18 degrees forward and 18 degrees side-to-side; this, along with tethering lugs built into the frame, facilitates steep slope cable-assisted harvesting applications.
(For more information about Tigercat forestry equipment, visit www.tigercat.com.)
Brian was interviewed the same week the company received the new Tigercat 1165 harvester. In fact, he was operating it on a Saturday when he took a break to talk to TimberLine.
So far Brian has noticed the stability of the harvester. “It’s designed so you can be at full reach off the side, but the machine is stable,” he said. “It’s the most stable harvester I’ve ever run…It doesn’t bounce at all.”
Brian noted that the boom can be operated and moved toward a tree while the harvester is moving. “I don’t think any other harvester can do that,” he said.
He described the cab as “very ergonomic. The handles are great…Visibility is awesome.”
The Tigercat 1165 is equipped with a Kesla harvester head with a top saw. Kesla is a Finland manufacturer also represented by Woodland Equipment. “It’s a fantastic head,” said Brian.
“The biggest thing I can see is the top saw…It’s fantastic for getting the last stick out of a tree or even trimming limbs.”
On some jobs, the company’s feller buncher is used to fell the trees, and harvesters work behind it, picking them and processing them into merchantable logs. “The knives are exceptionally well manufactured,” said Brian. “It’s easy to grab stuff off the ground. Very nimble but extremely strong.”
Woodland Equipment has been in business for more than 40 years. Ron Beauchamp Jr. acquired the business from his father, who still works in the business, in 2014. Ron has expanded the business since becoming the owner, adding new lines of equipment.
Woodland Equipment became a dealer for Tigercat in 2016, serving all of Michigan and 90 percent of Wisconsin from the dealership’s original location in Iron River, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula. Woodland Equipment has since expanded to add a second location in Gaylord, which is in the northern portion of lower Michigan.
Ron has been cultivating a relationship with Ross since before Woodland Equipment began representing Tigercat. Brian has been dealing with Ron and Woodland Equipment since buying the Tigercat forwarder for the sawmill.
“He’s gone above and beyond to make sure that everything has been good on his end, for sure,” said Brian. “He’s been great to work with.”
“We’ve never had to wait for service,” he added. “Their service guys are knowledgeable. They know Tigercat equipment. And there haven’t been a lot of those kind (service) of calls.”
“They’ve been very responsive,” said Brian, and handled service requests promptly.
(For more information about Woodland Equipment, visit www.woodland.com or call (906) 265-9904.)
Brian helps Rothig Forest Products with markets and moving crews to the next job. Rothig Forest Products supplies about 60 percent of the logs required by Dyers Sawmill, its biggest customer. Other markets include aspen and mixed hardwood pulp that is supplied to a Packaging Corp. of America, which has a containerboard mill in Filer City, and pine pulp that goes to a new ARAUCO particleboard mill in Grayling. Logs also are supplied to an Amish mill that peels and treats them and processes them into fence posts. One harvester is usually dedicated to cutting red pine for Biewer Lumber, which processes the logs into 2×4, 2×6, and other framing lumber.
“Markets are strong,” said Brian. “Basically all our markets are doing quite well. We have no problem moving all of our wood, although prices are a little bit low.” Prices for standing timber keep climbing every year, he noted, while log prices have been largely stagnant for about 15 years. “That’s a struggle,” said Brian, fueled by competition by so many logging contractors.
Whole tree chipping operations usually work in tandem with final thin harvests. The biomass is supplied for fuel to a Viking Energy cogeneration plant. Another cogeneration plant in Cadillac that also was a market was knocked offline by a fire. Rothig Forest Products produced about 1,000 tons of chips last year but currently is not conducting chip operations.
The company does both select cuts and clear-cuts. The crews may work close by or sometimes on the same timber sale. A single crew sometimes may operate two harvesters.
About 60 percent of timber is harvested from state land, 20 percent, federal, and 20 percent, private.
Ross first invested in a chipper to begin whole tree chipping operations in 1984 and added a Morbark flail to produce clean chips in 1996. He began the transition from tree length logging to cut-to-length with the purchase of a Valmet harvester in 1994 and added a second one in 1995.
Slash is left in the forest to make mats for the cut-to-length machines. When markets for hog fuel are strong, slash is chipped for biomass.
Rothig Forest Products is a member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. The company has extensive employee benefits, including a group health insurance plan, dental insurance plan, vision insurance plan, a 401(k) retirement plan, and paid holidays. Brian’s sister, Kim Pendley, is the bookkeeper-secretary for the company.