Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Cut costs during thinning work

The demand for forestry thinnings is still increasing and with strong competition from the wood fuel industry for supplies, woodland owners can remain optimistic for the future.

However, it's not much use having a valuable commodity if you cannot get it to market.

Small woodland owners often have great difficulty in sourcing harvesters due to factors such as an isolated location, difficult access or too small an area of trees to justify moving a large and expensive machine onto the site. But there are many alternatives and as privately owned woods mature, more and more farmers are using other means of extraction.

Perhaps because farm forestry is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland, we have become brainwashed by the exponents of harvesting and extraction systems that have been historically applied to the huge Coillte-owned conifer plantations. These systems are, of course, excellent on the appropriate sites but of little use to the many farmers, like myself, who own relatively small sites of mixed woodland in different locations.

Co-operating with neighbours is a huge help in situations where group marketing can be undertaken, but getting the trees harvested and to the roadside can often prove challenging. This is where chainsaw harvesting and small-scale extraction can prove their worth. Winches and quads are relatively cheap to purchase and can be quite efficient.

Horses are now making a comeback, principally because of their ability to work in awkward places and their light touch on the woodland floor, but for speed, versatility and the ability to stack timber at roadside, the mini forwarder is hard to beat.

I wrote some time ago about the eight-wheel-drive Alstor forwarder, which was small, fast and well able to deal with wet ground conditions. This time I am employing a forwarder built and operated by Ger Coyne, who is based in Dunlavin on the Kildare/Wicklow border.

Having looked at the options available, Ger decided to build his own.

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He first purchased a Pasquali 40hp articulated tractor which is designed primarily for use on difficult terrain and in hilly vineyards. It has a ground-drive system which allows the drive to be extended to the trailer wheels, giving it full eight-wheel drive.

He then constructed a 1,350mm-wide trailer with the help of a friend so that it would carry a substantial load of timber but be narrow enough to fit between the rows of trees without removing racks.

Finally, he fitted a Mowi P20 crane.

This purpose-built mini forwarder is more powerful and appears more robust than the Alstor while retaining speed and its eight-wheel drive.

Contact Ger on 085 166 7622.

Indo Farming

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