WEIDMAN, Michigan — Mark Maeder has worked in logging his entire life, since going to work for his father right after high school. At 56, he continues to go by the same approach to business that his father taught him.
Mark has relied mainly on Tigercat for logging equipment the past 15-20 years. Now he has the added benefit of being able to do business with a Tigercat dealer — Woodland Equipment.
His latest investment was a Tigercat 602 grapple skidder, Tigercat’s newest model and one with a compact design for select cut logging or challenging terrain.
Mark makes his home and business in Weidman, which is located in the central Lower Peninsula of Michigan, about 90-plus miles almost due north of Lansing. Maeder Logging was started by Mark’s father, Bill, in 1961. Mark went to work for his father after graduating from high school and took over the business when his father died of cancer in 2010.
The company employs Mark and five others in the woods plus his wife, Linda, who keeps the books for the company, handles other administrative tasks, and picks up parts.
Mark buys standing timber. The largest percentage of his work is on private land; he also does about three or four jobs on state forest land each year. He cruises the timber on any prospective job. If he is bidding on a large tract, he can get help cruising it from a Weyerhaeuser forester. “We do anything from select hardwood cuts to clear-cuts, cuts for wildlife management, managing woodlots,” he said.
The company’s average job is about 40 acres. Mark will do jobs as small as 20 acres. “I don’t like to go much smaller than that,” he said. “We might do something smaller if it has good hardwood.” Maeder Logging usually works within a 75-mile range although for some jobs they have traveled up to 100 miles.
The terrain in the region is relatively flat with a few rolling hills. The dominant species of trees are aspen and the Northern hardwoods, like oak, hard maple and soft maple, with some red pine. “We cut just about anything,” said Mark, although his business relies heavily on harvesting pulpwood to supply to Weyerhaeuser.
He supplies all his pulpwood, hardwood and aspen, to the Weyerhaeuser oriented strand board mill in Grayling, which is about 80 miles north. His quota is about 2,000 tons per month. Poplar and aspen pallet logs are supplied to one of several Amish pallet mills in the region. Hardwood grade logs are supplied to one of three sawmills: Maple Rapids Lumber Co., Weber Brothers, and Countryside Sawmill. A few Amish sawmills buy white pine logs.
Maeder Logging uses Tigercat wheel feller-bunchers, a 720D and a 720E, for felling. It also is equipped with two Tigercat grapple skidders, a 620C and a 602, and a pair of John Deere grapple skidders, a 648H and a 548G. The trees are topped and the limbs removed by a couple of men working on the ground with Stihl model 462 chainsaws. After being skidded to the landing, they are bucked to length by a Tigercat 220 knuckleboom loader with a slasher saw or a Barko 495ML loader with slasher saw.
Pulpwood is delivered in 8-foot lengths. Logs are delivered to the pallet mills and sawmills in the lengths they specify. The company also produces some 8-foot firewood logs. Tops and limbs are left in the woods to decay over time, returning nutrients to the soil. Short pieces are piled up at the landing; most landowners use them for firewood.
Mark has been a Tigercat customer for 15-20 years, he estimated. He has been pleased with the equipment and the service he has received — and toured Tigercat’s manufacturing facilities in southern Ontario — and has continued to add Tigercat machines. “Very happy,” he said.
“But it’s nice to have a dealer close,” he noted. “So far, I’ve been very satisfied with the service and parts availability from Woodland Equipment. They stock quite a bit.”
Woodland Equipment established its dealership in Gaylord, a little over 100 miles north. Woodland Equipment also has a location in Iron River on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“I like Tigercat equipment…I’m working my way to go all-Tigercat…I already plan that my next slasher is going to be a Tigercat.”
The most recent machines Mark has purchased are two Tigercat skidders from Woodland Equipment. He looked at skidders last year, Tigercat and another manufacturer, and began a relationship with Ron Beauchamp, owner of Woodland Equipment. He bought the used 620C model and then decided to try the 602. The Tigercat 602 grapple skidder, the company’s newest model just introduced recently, is smaller and more compact.
“We do a lot of pine thinnings, hardwood select cuts,” said Mark. “It’s hard to get around with those big machines. I wanted something smaller…and decided to try one.”
“It’s a more compact machine,” observed Mark. However, it has as much payload as larger skidders “and uses a lot less fuel. Fuel consumption is really good on it. I’ve been very pleased with it so far.”
Tigercat, with manufacturing facilities in southern Ontario, specializes in equipment for forestry applications and machines designed specifically for severe duty off-road logging and harvesting jobs like tracked loggers, material handlers, and wheel harvesters. It offers both tree-length and cut-to-length options for timber harvesting.
The Tigercat 602 grapple skidder is a compact, quick, fuel efficient model for high value select logging in tight or challenging terrain. Its size and agility make it ideal for selective felling applications. The machine can access high value timber in steep terrain while minimizing damage to the residual stand. With a fixed front axle with an oscillating centre section, the Tigercat 602 has a narrow overall width of only 106 inches.
The Tigercat FPT N45 Tier 4f engine delivers 168 hp (125 kW) at 2,200 rpm while conforming to emissions standards for North America and Europe. Performance in tough terrain is excellent with no gear shifting required. Full tractive effort is available at any engine speed, minimizing wheel spin and improving breakout performance.
Tigercat’s load-sensing hydraulic system maximizes fuel efficiency. Electronic control technology combined with Tigercat’s unique hydrostatic drive system allows the skidder to operate at variable engine rpm, automatically increasing engine speed when additional horsepower is required.
Tigercat’s Tier 4 engine solution is packaged into a physically smaller engine compartment, providing clear operator sight lines. Other benefits for the operator include excellent cab ergonomics, the Tigercat Turnaround® two-position rotating seat, and easy maintenance routines.
(For more information, visit www.tigercat.com.)
Woodland Equipment has been in business for 47 years. Ron Beauchamp acquired the business from his father in 2014. He 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 its location in Iron River, Michigan. Ron added the second location in Gaylord, in the northern portion of Lower Michigan, in 2018.
Woodland Equipment is also a dealer for TimberPro logging equipment as well as four manufacturers of felling heads and processing attachments: Risley, Log Max, Quadco, and Kesla.
(For more information on Woodland Equipment and its product lines, visit www.WoodlandEquipment.com or call (906) 265-9904.)
Maeder Logging normally hauls all its own wood although on occasion Mark supplements trucking with contractors. He has a couple of logging trucks, one a self-loader and the other a semi-tractor paired with a crib trailer. He also has a Mack semi-tractor with a low-boy trailer for moving equipment.
Mark usually meets his employees at the shop at 6:30 each morning to talk about the goals for the day, then they head to the job site. He normally operates a loader and slasher, cutting the logs to length and loading trucks. Sometimes he meets landowners to look at timber, but he tries to arrange those meetings on weekends.
When he was interviewed for this article, Mark’s company was working on 240 acres for a hunting club. “We are cutting about 40 acres, taking out the poplar and soft maple and leaving all the oak” and some other species.
Maeder Logging does “100 percent” of routine maintenance on equipment. “I have a couple of guys who are pretty good mechanics,” said Mark. “We do just about everything unless it’s a major repair.” The company shop is a short distance from his home, where he maintains an office.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the forest products industry in the region and his business, according to Mark. “Things have really slowed down,” he said. Weyerhaeuser has trimmed his quota by 35 percent; home construction has slowed, so OSB is not moving. His quota could be cut by 50 percent, a Weyerhaeuser forester told him, if the fallout from the pandemic continues unabated. Pallet mills have experienced a decline in sales and have backed off buying logs, a result of the big three automakers curtailing operations.
“It’s a total lock-down up here,” added Mark. “Hopefully we’re going to start moving and getting things going again.”
Prior to the outbreak, “Everything was going great,” said Mark. In fact, Weyerhaeuser was buying more pulpwood than his allowed quota.
Mark normally operates two crews but has cut back to one. Nevertheless, Mark was optimistic. “I’m sure it’ll get better,” he said. “Everyone is in the same boat.”
Business also took a hit after the housing industry ‘bubble’ burst in 2009-10, recalled Mark.
“We got cut back then, too,” by mills. However, he has never had to lay off anyone. “We’ve always been able to keep working.” If business slows he tries to cut more hardwood saw logs.
Mark contacts landowners with timber, usually sending them a letter if they have a good tract of timber. His company also has a website that helps attract calls from landowners who are interested in harvesting their timber. Many of the landowners use foresters to develop a forest management plan, coordinating it with applicable tax incentives, and to mark trees for harvest, and Mark bids on those jobs.
Mark is a member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. He is certified under the association’s Sustainable Forestry Education program, a component of Michigan’s participation in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. He also is a Qualified Logging Professional under the Michigan state implementation committee of SFI.
Maeder Logging participates in a monthly safety training program — Think Safely. The training materials are provided by the Michigan Association of Timbermen, and Linda conducts the meetings. She reviews a safety topic with the crew, and they are asked to answer questions by filling out a card. The winner receives a gift card, and the others are still eligible for a ‘second chance’ drawing for a cash prize.
Maeder Logging offers a group health insurance plan with the company paying the first $500 of an employee’s premium, plus paid holidays and two weeks of paid vacation.
Mark enjoys being and working outdoors and the opportunity to see different areas of central Michigan. “And the challenge of managing each wood lot,” he added. “They’re all different.”
In his free time he enjoys hunting — deer, turkey, and rabbits — and fishing and spending time with Linda and their two daughters. Hailey, 12, and Hollie, 11, are active in sports and also 4-H, and Linda serves on various 4-H committees. Mark and Linda and their family are members of Mount Pleasant Community Church.
Mark is guided by the same philosophy his father passed onto him. “He always said be honest, work hard, and strive to do the best for the landowner and meet their objectives. That’s what I always try to do.”
“You’ve got to earn their trust,” he added.