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Cut-to-Length Logger Cuts a Lot of Hard Maple

Wisconsin logger finds Risley Rolly II harvester good in both hardwoods, pines

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 9/1/2004


GLEASON, Wisconsin — In the early to mid-1800s, Wisconsin, which was then still a territory, ranked first among the states and territories in lumber production. It held the position for many years. Almost synonymous with dairy products, Wisconsin also has been an important player in wood products throughout its history.

        Mike Beyer, owner of Beyer Enterprise, got interested in the logging industry in the Badger State during his high school years. He began helping his older brother, Larry, who was a logger. After graduation, Mike launched his own business.

        “I actually started out custom-hauling,” said Mike. He still owns Mike Beyer Trucking, but he does not do the driving.

        In 1993, after 10 years behind the wheel of a truck, Mike decided he wanted to get into the woods, and so Beyer Enterprise began. He was glad to get off the highway and get in the woods again.

        Mike engaged in tree-length logging until 2000, then he invested in a Risley Rolly II harvester and switched to cut-to-length logging. “I had heard a lot of good things about them,” he said.

        Mike talked to other loggers he knew about the Risley equipment and did other research to learn more. “I liked what it did,” he said. He soon added the Risley Rolly II to his business.

        The used Rolly II, which was mounted on a Timbco 415 track carrier, met Mike’s expectations. When Mike was able to purchase a new harvester, he knew immediately what he wanted. “When I bought, there was really no decision to make,” said Mike. He wanted to stay with the Rolly II. By the spring of 2002, Mike was ready to buy a new Rolly II and Timbco 415. He bought both his used and new equipment from Woodland Equipment in Iron River, Mich.

        “We pick up as much of our own stumpage as possible,” said Mike, buying timber on private land as well as government tracts. About 20% of the cutting that Beyer Enterprise does is for Wausau-Mosinee Paper Corp., which has mills in Mosinee and Brokaw, Wis.

        Mike goes back and forth between cutting mixed hardwoods and thinning pines. He relies on the Risley Rolly II head to give him the wide-ranging capability. “The thing I like about the head,” he said, “is it will handle anything you put in it. It will handle what you give it.”

        Mike cuts about 50% hard maple, the toughest among the hardwoods he encounters. Even so, the Rolly II has proven to be “a very powerful head in hardwood,” explained Mike. “It will take up to a 7-inch limb.” Mike rarely needs a chainsaw, but when the occasion arises, he uses a Husqvarna.

        Optional equipment on the Rolly II makes it even more versatile. Mike’s Rolly II is equipped with a topping saw. “I watched a video showing one that was equipped with a topping saw.” Watching the topping saw on the video take off big limbs convinced Mike to buy the option even though topping saws are not widely used by other loggers in the region. “It will cut up to a 14-inch limb,” he said.

        Maintenance and repairs on the Rolly II and the Timbco 415 carrier have been ordinary, according to Mike. “Just your minor quirks and hoses,” he said.

        The Timbco is virtually unimpeded by snow, said Mike. “It takes quite a bit
to stop it” he said. During winter the
machine routinely works in conditions of 3 to 4 feet of snow.

        Beyer Enterprise is a two-man operation. Mike operates the Timbco and does all the cutting and processing with the Rolly II. He has a Cerco 7500 model loader to load a truck with a pup trailer. Truck driver Ted Draeger is his only employee.

        Operating as a separate business entity, Larry works as a subcontractor for Mike, operating a Valmet eight-wheel forwarder to get the wood to the landing. The brothers decided in 1993 to pair up when they bid on jobs. Larry bought the Valmet forwarder new in late 2003. It went through its first winter and deep snow with great ease after being fitted with Hultdins Eco-tracks.

        The Valmet replaced another forwarder from a different manufacturer. “We were looking for a lighter forwarder,” said Mike. That was one reason the Valmet was selected. Another reason was that the Valmet cab is large enough so the operator can easily move and swing around without bumping his knees against the control panel.

        Larry, who is eight years older than Mike, calls his company Broken Neck Logging. Larry suffered a broken neck in a logging accident many years ago but fully recovered. “A tree actually snapped off,” said Mike. “The top got him on the back of the head. One little bone” in his neck was broken.

        Larry’s experience in the logging industry goes back to his youth, according to Mike. “My brother started peeling poplar logs while he was still in high school,” he said.

        Most of the jobs that Mike and Larry do are select cuts, so the maneuverability of the Timbco with the Rolly II is important. Mike said it does very well in tight fits. Both the Timbco and the Valmet are just over 9 feet wide. “Once in a while we have to take another tree” in order to reach a tree slated for felling, said Mike, but those circumstances are rare.

        Mike does few clear-cuts. “The only clear-cut we get into is aspen in winter,” he said. Aspen requires good sunlight to regenerate, and it sprouts quickly on clear-cut tracts the following spring and summer.

        Tops and limbs are left in the woods, and they are placed in the path of the Timbco in order to reduce impact on the forest floor. “Everything gets laid in front of the processor,” said Mike. The mat of tops and limbs makes a great substrate for the machine. The slash also breaks down quickly under the weight of the machine, adding to the organic layer of the soil.

        “We try to do a good job for the landowner,” said Mike. The goal is to leave a site looking good and being environmentally sound, he said. Beyer Enterprise works closely with state foresters who prescribe logging methods and monitor the results.

        Mike has a good working relationship with Risley. “Clyde Norman is the representative for Risley,” he said. “And he’s number one with me. I’ve got a lot of respect for Clyde.”

        Headquartered in Alberta, Canada, Risley Equipment is part of Risley Manufacturing, Ltd. a family-developed company that makes an array of harvesting heads, processing heads, tree-length delimbers, and disc saw heads. The strength of its experience in hydraulics and metal fabrication keeps Risley moving forward and dedicated to continuous improvement of its equipment.

        Risley recently introduced a new Rolly II, the Rolly II Heavy Duty. The heavy duty version is a two-speed harvester, designed to meet the needs of loggers who switch between large limbed and smaller limbed trees as well as hardwoods and softwoods.

        Mike’s commitment to logging and doing a quality job for landowners has gotten the notice of Risley and the Woodland Equipment distributor for Risley. Ron Beauchamp, owner of Woodland Equipment, said that Mike is sometimes hired to do demonstrations of a Rolly II Heavy Duty harvester that is mounted on a TimberPro 620, which is a rubber-tired carrier.

        Being an owner-operator, Mike has a good understanding of logging and is able to answer questions raised at a logger-to-logger level. “Plus, he’s very knowledgeable on the Rolly II,” said Ron.

        The TimberPro 620 is the only rubber-tired carrier that can operate with the Rolly II heavy-duty head, said Ron. Putting a Rolly II heavy-duty control head on a wheeled carrier gives the cut-to-length logger the best of both worlds, he said. The TimberPro 620 enables the Rolly II to be moved quickly from place to place. It is also easier on the operator, Ron noted. Machine operators generally experience less fatigue in a wheeled carrier compared to a track carrier because the tires help absorb shock from movement.

        With eco-tracks on the tires of the TimberPro 620 in winter, said Ron, the carrier can continue to operate regardless of snow. One logger has been using his TimberPro 620 the past two years in the Keweenah Peninsula, where the annual snowfall ranges from 200 to 300 inches, and the machine has done the job.

        The two-speed motors on the Rolly II Heavy Duty head are important, said Ron, because they allow the operator to work quickly in smaller wood yet still have the power and speed to fell and process bigger trees.

        Risley made a number of changes in transforming the Rolly II into the heavy duty model, said Ron. Among the most important are the two-speed motors and the heavy-duty rotate system. Other improvements include log diameter measuring capability, knife modifications, structure and hose changes, to name just a few.  “Risley is targeting a 10,000 hour useable life for the head,” said Ron.

        Ron gets a lot of satisfaction from helping his customers get the right equipment for their logging conditions. Many of the logging contractors in the region are cut-to-length loggers with only two-man operations, he noted, with one man operating a harvester and another man running a forwarder.

        Ron has been heavily involved with Risley in its development of the Rolly II, particularly contributing ideas to the design of the saw bottom, and he often uses his own computer system. Throughout the development and improvement of the Rolly II, Ron has been a familiar figure at Risley in Alberta, promoting changes advocated by his logging customers.

        Mike is trained in Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) logging methods, which are promoted by the Wisconsin Forest Productivity Council. SFI is an initiative of the American Forest & Paper Association that combines the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with protection of wildlife, plants, and soil and water quality.

        “I like the independence, being in the woods,” Mike said. “Nobody bothers you during the day.” He likes being outdoors when he has free time as well. “I like hunting a lot,” he said, and “camping with my family.”

        Gleason is located in northwest Wisconsin, relatively close to the upper peninsula of Michigan. Beyer Enterprise works within a 100-mile radius of Gleason. Mike Beyer Trucking hauls to within about 150 miles from Gleason in any direction.

        Although Wisconsin has not been number one in lumber production for many decades, it is a top ranked producer of paper. The state regularly competes for the top rung in output of paper and paper products.

        The temperature on a typical winter day in upper Wisconsin can get down to 10 or 15 degrees below zero. Men and machines can work in those conditions, but if the temperature falls further, the work may slow down or come to a halt.

        “If it’s 20 or 25 below zero, we won’t start up right away,” said Mike, because at that range the freezing temperatures increase metal fatigue. The sub-zero temperatures also are hard on hoses. On those extra cold days, Mike waits until the temperature climbs by late morning. “You’re better off not putting the key in the ignition” when it is that cold, he said.

        “We had some 40 below” days last winter, Mike added. On those days, the temperature did not always climb into a working range, so Mike would knock off work until the weather warmed. It is the cold — not the snow — that may force a temporary halt in work, he noted.

        Northern Wisconsin has abundant forests of pine, hemlock, cedar and balsam fir while deciduous forests are common in the eastern and southern parts of the state. The northern region is a rolling plateau, and most of the forests where Mike works are relatively flat.

        Because he moves frequently between selective cuts in hardwood stands and thinning in pines, production figures do not have much meaning, Mike noted. He has been completely satisfied with the production of the Risley II, and the harvester has enabled him to operate profitably.

 




 






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