31 October 1997

Small tackle put through woodland paces

SMALL machinery, which farmers can use to manage neglected woodlands, was put through its paces on a Welsh farm recently.

Eleven systems were shown at the two-day workshop, and the Technical Development Branch of the Forestry Commission published performance figures and costings collected during two weeks of trials at Fan Farm near Llandovery.

Simon Hewitt, chief conservator of the Forestry Authority, Wales, said a colossal natural resource was being squandered because 70,000ha of Welsh woods were undermanaged.

It was, he said, impractical to use large forestry extraction equipment for small parcels of often low quality timber, so priority was being given to providing tools to harvest small woods efficiently and economically.

One approach was to use systems based on powerful 4×4 ATVs and pedestrian controlled tractors with tracks. The other was to use tackle linked to agricultural tractors.

The different outputs, labour demand and equipment costs of the systems, produced very different costs a cu m of timber felled and extracted.

A pedestrian controlled machine on show was the latest version of the Partner/Jonsered Iron Horse, which costs £7150. This has a 270cc four-stroke fan cooled petrol engine, and a winch capable of pulling 1100kg. During the trial, in which it was used with two-wheel bogie axle trailer from the same manufacturer, its operating costs were £11.32/cu m when moving timber by skidding, and £6.48/cu m when forwarding timber on the trailer.

Using an £1850 prototype TFM Engineering loading arch trailer, a 400cc ATV costing £5000 new, and an £800 Kolpe 0.5t capacity winch, the extraction cost less felling charge was between £19.43 and £22.42/cu m.

When the same vehicle and a £1600 TFM twin-wheel bogie axle forwarding trailer were used and timber was hand loaded, extraction cost was £9.65/cu m excluding felling. This compared with £15.40 where an £800 TFM timber sulky and £800 winch were employed. For all the systems the felling cost was put at £10.32/cu m.

Among the tractor-based systems shown was a skidder single drum winch system fitted to a second-hand Massey Ferguson 265 4×4. This proved to be suited for one man operation and total felling and extraction cost was £28.90/cu m. Using a double drum low lead winch, costs totalled £41.72/cu m.

Felling and high output extraction with a new £33,000 Valmet 4×4 and £17,000 Moheda trailer with a hydraulic loader incurred total charges of £2.75/cu m. &#42

Small-scale forestry extraction systems should enable economic harvesting of low quality timber.