CHATHAM, Louisiana – Pine and hardwood forests are plentiful in the gentle slopes of north-central Louisiana. So are the markets for wood, with mills for making paper lumber and other wood products, and fuel pellets.
David Greer’s company, DG&E Logging Inc. supplies wood to 10 different mills, most of them within 40-50 miles. All of them are located in Louisiana.
DG&E is a big enterprise. The company employs 54 people and operates seven logging crews. In addition, David subcontracts with other loggers to harvest timber for DG&E, which has annual revenues of $36 million.
The company is based in Chatham, which is about 88 miles east and slightly south of Shreveport. It has a small office there and a 33,000-square-foot shop. David also has a 3,000-square-foot shop at his home in nearby Jonesboro.
A third generation logger, David started DG&E when he was only 21 in 2001. His story is unusual. From the very beginning, his business was built with Ponsse cut-to-length logging machines. He started by leasing Ponsse equipment, establishing himself as the region’s first cut-to-length logger in the region.
David has expanded over the years, adding tree-length logging operations and chipping operations, but cut-to-length logging – and Ponsse machines – are still an integral part of his business. Two logging crews do cut-to-length timber harvesting and are equipped with Ponsse harvesters and forwarders. Another crew does conventional tree-length logging.
Four crews stay busy producing chips. All the crews work on separate jobs. In addition, he subcontracts 10 other companies to produce wood for DG&E.
DG&E buys standing timber from private landowners and timber companies. The wood is harvested by DG&E employees or subcontractors, and most of it is delivered to mills by trucking contractors.
DG&E’s employees include 44 who work in the tree-length logging and chipping crews, five who work in cut-to-length, three mechanics, a foreman, a person in the office, and David’s wife, Roxie, who delivers parts and retrieves load tickets.
David did solely cut-to-length logging for the first three years, then gradually began growing his business in response to market opportunities, adding equipment and employees. First he added clean chipping operations, and then he began adding tree-length logging operations to increase production of pulp wood. In recent years he also has added production of micro chips.
“I guess you could say that I’m into a little bit of everything and I’m not scared to try new things,” said David. “I’m the only one that I know of in the area who runs cut-to-length operations…Lots of people ask me questions about cut-to-length, but I’ve not been able to convert anyone yet.”
Cut-to-length logging is used widely in Europe and elsewhere and has been established in some areas of the U.S., although it is still somewhat of a novelty in the South. David noted that cut-to-length provides numerous benefits to loggers: less equipment and all the associated costs, less labor, less fuel per ton of wood produced. That all adds up to make cut-to-length more cost efficient than tree-length logging.
There are other benefits, too, he noted. “The advantage is the utilization of small logs for private landowners. And cut-to-length leaves a small footprint, so it’s much better for the environment.”
DG&E is equipped with five Ponsse machines: a Scorpion King harvester, a Beaver harvester, a 2013 Buffalo forwarder and two 2008 Buffalo King forwarders. The harvesters are the newest machines, the Beaver machine purchased this year and the Scorpion King, last year. The Scorpion King is fitted with a Ponsse H7 harvester head, and the Beaver is equipped with a Ponsse H6 harvester head.
“I love Ponsse,” said David. “They are so economical and reliable. In all the years I’ve had my equipment, no one has ever had to come out to the field to service it.”
“Ponsse has helped me save on fuel costs,” he added, “and I like dealing with the Ponsse service department. They are wonderful. They are always there to help guide us step by step with anything that we need. And I’ve enjoyed working with Andres Camargo as I was trying to decide the best machine for what we are doing in the forest.”
Ponsse offers three Scorpion models: Scorpion, Scorpion King, and Scorpion Giant. They differ by size and capacities. The Scorpion King is the mid-size model.
All Ponsse Scorpion model harvesters are focused on the operator. The operator’s seat is literally the center point of the machine. The operator cabin is located in the middle of the harvester. In addition, the crane is mounted behind the cabin, reaching above and over it.
These design features provide excellent visibility in every direction. The operator can select trees and felling directions and place trees into piles efficiently. He also is situated in the middle of the cabin’s turning radius, which improves comfort and reduces fatigue.
All Scorpion model harvesters have eight wheels. Ponsse’s patented active stabilization system detects crane direction and position. The rear frame accordingly is pressed in the working direction, which significantly improves stability when working on the side of the machine as well as when it moves. Cabin leveling balances the cabin even in difficult terrain and also minimizes lateral swaying.
Ponsse harvesters are equipped with powerful, fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz diesel engines, and the advanced transmission offers excellent handling and control. The Ponsse C50 crane, for the Scorpion and Scorpion King models, is a two-arm lift boom and reaches 32.5-36 feet.
Sam Denton, David’s main foreman, operates the Scorpion King. He has worked in logging for 22 years and operated almost every kind of machine. He likes Ponsse the best.
“Pretty much the visibility is the main thing I like about the machine,” said Sam. “And the leveling of the cab keeps me level on the hills, too. But the main thing is the visibility of it.
It does the job, and it’s a lot faster, too. It’s the smoothest riding machine I’ve ever been in, and that says a lot for all the types of machines I’ve operated.”
“I love the Scorpion King. I love being in the forest, and I love my job. And it helps to have such a good piece of equipment.”
(For more information about Ponsse machines, visit www.ponsse.com or call the company’s North American headquarters in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, at (715) 369-4833.)
David buys timber from private landowners and also companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Reliable Forestry Service, and Crest National Resources. Saw logs are supplied to mills for Hunt Forest Products, West Fraser, Winn Lumber, Hanna Manufacturing, Weyerhaeuser and RoyOMartin. Clean chips and pulp logs are supplied to mills for International Paper, Graphic Packaging International, WestRock. Micro chips are supplied to Drax Biomass, which manufactures fuel pellets.
Most hauls to mills are in a 40-50 mile radius. The longest hauls are 50-80 miles, and the shortest, 5-15 miles. DG&E has a few trucks of its own, but most hauling is done by trucking contractors.
Overall, DG&E crews and subcontractors produce 14-15,000 tons of logs and wood per week, according to David. About 85 percent of the production is pine and the rest, hardwood. DG&E supplies about 4,200 tons of micro chips per week for Drax Biomass.
About 5,000 tons of clean chips are supplied to WestRock through an affiliated business, Reliable Forestry Services.
DG&E has a mixed fleet of more than 20 machines for its tree-length logging operations, predominantly John Deere and Tigercat wheel feller bunchers, John Deere skidders and shovel loggers, and Tigercat track loaders. The company also has a pair of Cat trailered knuckleboom loaders, a Cat skidder, and one Doosan track loader. The chipping operations are equipped with four Morbark chippers: two 4036 models, a 3036, and one 23NL.
Besides DG&E’s chipping operations, David partnered with two other men to form affiliated businesses that do chipping. He and Timothy Hightower, a friend since kindergarten, established H&G Logging in 2016, and the company is one of David’s subcontractors. The other company, Reliable Forestry Services, was formed with Coy Purkey in 2019.
The E in DG&E is for David’s daughter, Elizabeth, 20, from his first marriage. He and Roxie also have three boys ages 11 and under: Timber, Kayson, and Ryder.
David is ‘hands on’ in the business. He spends his work days buying timber, doing mechanical work on equipment, and sometimes operating a bulldozer. He only goes to the office once a week to review invoices.
In his free time David enjoys hunting deer on his 720 acres. He makes his property available to other hunters, including two hunting stands that are wheelchair accessible. “I wanted to provide something for those who are in the city who don’t have access to this kind of thing,” he said. As he talked, David said his family had just eaten deer sausage for dinner.