10 September 1999

Log on to a

good grapple

Theres money in them trees. Correctly managed

timber production can bring added income to a

farming business. In our Forestry Special, we look

at the machinery available to farmers aiming to

fully exploit their woodlands

FARMERS with a modest area of woodland to manage and exploit need simple, versatile and inexpensive equipment. When it comes to handling timber, tractor linkage-mounted grapples meet all three criteria.

With a hydraulically adjusted claw on a single beam, they could not be much simpler; being capable of skidding whole-length trees or carrying a batch of saw logs, they could not be more versatile; and costing £1200-£1800, they are not overly expensive.

The Nokka Timber Grab – or shortwood forwarder as importer Falcon prefers to call it – and the Japa Grapple Skidder, from Fuelwood Warwick, are built to a similar format. The tractor linkage headstock carries a rigid or pivoting arm which itself carries a two-piece claw.

With twin tines on one side, a single on the other, the claw on both devices can close tight around a small piece of timber and open wide to get hold of large logs or a bundle of material.

Sections extending either side of the frame enable these implements to lift bundles of quite lengthy timber clear of the ground. Alternatively, logs can be dragged – or skidded to use the forest industry term – whole over short distances, although it is clearly better for the ground and for the timber itself if it can be carried.

The free-slew facility helps when skidding, but power slew allows the grab to be positioned for picking up loads in awkward situations when the tractor cannot be ideally positioned, or when material needs to be dropped to one side.

Northants farmer, forestry contractor and tree surgeon Chris Sabine finds the Grapple Skidder an invaluable tool.

"Its a versatile and handy piece of equipment," he says. "We use it in all sorts of situations."

Farming and timber work run side-by-side at Red House Farm, Lower Shuckburgh, near Daventy. Small-scale thinnings are carried out on the Shuckburgh and other local estates, while tree surgery takes the team much further afield.

Apart from the Grapple Skidder, Mr Sabine runs a Botex timber trailer and crane for hauling wood from forest to yard, and a Neuhauser stake peeler/pointer.

Larger thinnings timber is sold for saw-milling (not that there is much of a market for it at present), with smaller material converted in the yard into fencing rails, posts and strainers for sale (after preservative treatment locally) or use on the farm.

"Its difficult to cut costs on fence posts because the big producers can turn them out very competitively," says Mr Sabine. "But you can make good savings using your own timber for bigger items like strainers and rails."

Apart from providing a handy means of moving saw logs around the yard, the Skidding Grapple comes into its own in the wood.

"On the home estate, where we have 150 acres of woodland that needs thinning, there are areas where the trees are too dense for the forwarding trailer to get easy access, and others where steep banks make it too difficult," he says.

In these situations, the Japa, used with a 90hp four-wheel drive tractor, can carry a bundle of 3.65m (12ft) logs to a convenient point for loading or drag whole trees to a location where it is easier to cut them up.

"It also comes into its own bringing down trees that get hung up in the dense wood as they are felled," Mr Sabine adds. "Weve tried using the forwarding trailer grapple and a small winch, but the Skidding Grapple does the job most easily, quickly and safely."

Another advantage for the grapple as far as extraction work is concerned is that it can be used in areas where a tractor and heavily-laden timber trailer are likely to make a mess.

"This is something landowners are becoming more concerned about," says Mr Sabine. "Using the grapple for extraction may be slower but its good if you can do the job with minimum impact on the forest environment."

The grapples main limitation, Mr Sabine acknowledges, is that lift height is limited to the scope of the tractors three-point linkage. Nor is it suited to transporting timber along public roads.

But it will handle surprisingly large loads. Mr Sabine has carried an 11m (36ft) larch weighing 0.5t-0.75t. And the strong build, simplicity and load handling versatility more than make up for any limitations, he says.


&#8226 Falcon (01889-882701)

&#8226 Nokka JK Timber Grab/ Shortwood Forwarder.

&#8226 Maximum jaw opening: 2.2m (7ft 3in).

&#8226 Weight: 300kg.

&#8226 Hydraulic slewing cylinder standard.

&#8226 Price: £1840.

&#8226 Fuelwood Warwick (01926-484673)

&#8226 Japa Skidding Grapple.

&#8226 Claw opens to 2m (6ft 6in), closes to 150mm (6in).

&#8226 Optional power slew adds £280 to £1295 implement list price.

&#8226 Weight 235kg.