SYMSONIA, Kentucky – Two options. Both good. That is the best kind of choice.
The partners in Wyatt Brothers had a choice between two options in 1999. Their sawmill was doing well. So was their logging operation.
“We were getting big enough. We had to choose,” explained Sid Wyatt, who along with his father, Royce, and brother, Seth, owns Wyatt Brothers. The trio decided to focus on logging and shut down their sawmill.
Today, Wyatt Brothers is a fully mechanized logging business that uses cut-to-length (CTL) equipment. Sid explained he doubts anyone on the team still owns a chainsaw.
When father and sons began logging, it was all chainsaws and tractors. They eventually added mechanized equipment, then began the move to CTL machines in 2007.
By 2009 they had made a complete transition to CTL with machines from Ponsse. “We decided to change machine (brands) and bought two used machines,” said Sid.
The purchases 13 years ago catalyzed the beginning of a relationship with Ponsse representatives. Ponsse serviced the used machines, and Sid and his partners got to know the Ponsse team.
Initially, the Wyatt team worked especially with Pekka Ruuskanen, who is now the president and CEO of Ponsse North America. Over time, they also got to know John Holmes, a Ponsse sales representative, as they continued to work with Pekka.
Working with Ponsse personnel impressed Sid from the start: they were more than willing to keep the used equipment in top condition.
Headquartered in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Ponsse North America, emphasizes customer engagement. That commitment to customers struck a chord with the Wyatt Brothers from the beginning of the working relationship.
“I would just drive home that Ponsse has really good service,” said Sid. “They’re second to none. They want you to succeed. That’s why we’ve stayed with them.”
Today Wyatt Brothers is equipped with two Ponsse Ergo harvesters. One, new in 2014, has a Ponsse H7 harvester attachment; the other, new in 2016, has a Ponsse H8 head.
The company also has two Ponsse forwarders for getting the wood to the landing, a Buffalo King and an Elephant King. The Ponsse Buffalo King was purchased new in 2015. A new 2022 Ponsse Elephant King arrived in January. A Cat D6H dozer is used for building roads.
Sid operates the Ponsse Ergo harvester with the H8 head. Designed to be a good match for large diameter timber, the H8 combines compactness with power.
Wyatt Brothers works in a lot of mixed hardwood stands, and some of the timber is big. The Ponsse Ergo harvester with the H8 head can handle 95 percent of them, said Sid. The other five percent? “We leave them,” he said.
Oak and maple are the dominant species where the company works. “Everyone wants white oak,” said Sid. However, there’s very little of it.
Wyatt Brothers typically works within an hour’s drive of its base in Symsonia, Kentucky, a community of about 500 people. Symsonia is in deep southwest Kentucky, near Paducah, which puts it near Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and even Arkansas.
Logging jobs, mostly on federal land, take the Wyatt brothers team into those neighboring states. “I try to stay on federal land,” said Sid.
“Most of our jobs are bid jobs,” he added. The company also does some contract timber harvesting for private landowners and sawmills.
Wyatt Brothers has a semi-tractor and low-boy trailer for moving equipment, but it relies on two owner-operator truckers to haul their logs.
The Wyatts also operate a family farm, raising mainly black angus beef cattle and some longhorn cattle, too.
All the Wyatt Brothers Ponsse machines have eight wheels. In winter they put Eco-Tracks on the forwarders for extra traction.
As for what motivated Royce and sons Sid and Seth to start their company, the inspiration really came from doing. “We just started cutting timber on our property, and it blossomed from there,” said Sid.
Wyatt Brothers has one employee in addition to the three Wyatts. Until recently, Sid’s uncle worked as part of the team, but now he is retired.
Sid said their goal is to “produce as much as we can.” The Ponsse harvesters and forwarders make that possible. The terrain is generally low and with a bit of roll, and areas can be wet and even swampy. The region is defined by the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The Ponsse machines provide stability and agility.
The Ponsse Ergo harvester is versatile. It is used by loggers in the hottest parts of South America as well as the coldest climates, so the cold winters and hot summers near the midpoint of the U.S. are no challenge.
The Ponsse H8 harvester head is designed to combine minimum size and maximum power. With a maximum opening of just over 29 inches, it is well suited for thinning as well as final cuts.
(A new version of the H8 head features Ponsse’s Active Speed function. It allows the operator to adjust the operating speed of the head based on the tree species and stem diameter. That’s just one of many features Ponsse developed with the production goals of loggers in mind.)
The Active Frame suspension on eight-wheel Ponsse machines allows the operator to ride comfortably – and ergonomically – without being pulled sideways. The oscillation-free ride reduces operator fatigue.
Ponsse offers specific harvester heads for certain sizes of timber and even species. For example, the H series of harvesting heads includes two attachments tailored for harvesting and processing eucalyptus trees found in South America.
Ponsse also offers its Synchcrowinch system for loggers who work in steep terrain. It is available on some harvester and forwarder models. Mounted on the rear of the machine, it enables the equipment to be tethered to an anchor at the summit. Loggers working on steep slopes also can benefit from a parallel or sliding boom crane.
The Ponsse Opti information system gives machine operators an interface developed for ease-of-use. The operator can read the screen and monitor the action of the harvesting head or crane at the same time.
(For more information about Ponsse equipment, visit www.ponsse.com.)
Ponsse North America is part of the family-owned company, Ponsse Oyj, which began in Finland in 1970. The company remains in family hands and continues to base its production, research and development, and administration in the town where it started.
Ponsse wants his company to succeed, said Sid. That’s the philosophy of the manufacturer: help customers succeed in their logging business. Sid, 43, a native of Kentucky, has a simple business philosophy. “We just keep going no matter what happens.” Success requires finding a way to overcome unexpected challenges.
The reliability of the Ponsse machines has been valuable, according to Sid. That is why Wyatt Brothers has stayed with the brand.
Sid is a certified lumber inspector. When the family operated the sawmill, he graded lumber. He enjoys the opportunity to work outdoors in logging.
Ponsse earned the first ISO 9001 certification for a forest machine manufacturer in 1994. It ranks as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rubber tire machines for cut-to-length logging.
Ponsse offers a range of models of harvesters and forwarders, and the Wyatt Brothers machines are in the middle of the size range.
Ponsse only manufactures cut-to-length harvesters and forwarders. Its machines are operated by loggers around the world. The company has manufactured more than 19,000 machines, having delivered the 19,000th machine to a customer in Scotland in February.
Ponsse designs its machines to be productive and efficient while also being environmentally friendly. They are built for minimum weight and maximum strength. That approach led Ponsse to introduce a partial aluminum frame on the S15 forwarder in the 1980s.
Sid and his family own quarter horses and like to ride. He is too young to have skidded logs with horses, but he certainly knows about it. And he laughs a bit over how much and how fast things have changed.
Just over 20 years ago, when Sid started logging with his father and brother, it was a very different world. The gains in safety and production achieved by supplanting chainsaws and felling by hand have been big. Cut-to-length logging has resulted in a quantum leap.
Horseback riding gets some competition as a free-time activity in the summer. “We all go noodling,” explained Sid, referring to the pastime of catching catfish with bare hands.