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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

November 2014

On the Cover:

Sawmills in the Canadian forest industry continued to be active places this fall, thanks to healthy U.S. housing starts—which were recently over the one million mark for the third time this year—and continuing demand for lumber from China, as well as steady demand from other markets. Add to this a lower loonie, and the outlook for the industry looks reasonably bright going into 2015.
(Millyard photo by Tony Kryzanowski)

Fort Nelson wants your sawmill
If you’re looking to set up a sawmill operation, B.C.’s Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the town of Fort Nelson want to talk to you—and they have a basket of sustainable green timber in their back pocket.

One-two punch in harvesting equipment
B.C.’s Mattey Bros. Logging has a relatively new one-two punch on the harvesting end these days, in the form of a John Deere 959K tracked feller buncher and an 870C Tigercat tracked buncher, and both machines are delivering the goods.

Harvesting trees—and crops
A logging and farming combination approach to business is working well for brothers Marcel and Alain Chalifour of logging contactor Almar Limbing in Saskatchewan, with the brothers sometimes dividing their time between harvesting trees, and crops.

Malakwa mill resurrection
A sawmill in the small B.C. Interior town of Malakwa has been resurrected with some capital—and plenty of hard work—and is now producing green hemlock lumber for the Chinese market.

Ready for Mother Nature
B.C. Interior logging contractor John Himech Logging Ltd has to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends their way—including wildfires that can throw harvesting schedules out of whack.

Award-winning sawmill partnership
The award-winning Opitciwan sawmill partnership between Resolute Forest Products and the Atkamekw Council of Obedjiwan Quebec First Nations stands out as a model for other First Nations/forest industry partnerships across Canada.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions…

The Last Word
Jim Stirling talks about how B.C.’s Forest Practices Board keeps an eye on the forests.

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New & Noted: at Timber Processing and Energy Expo in Portland, Oregon

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Alain ChalifourHarvesting trees—
and crops

A logging and farming combination approach to business is working well for brothers Marcel and Alain Chalifour of logging contactor Almar Limbing in Saskatchewan, with the brothers sometimes dividing their time between harvesting trees, and crops.

By Tony Kryzanowski

Saskatchewan is known for its co-operative spirit, and one place where that co-operation is very evident is at Almar Limbing, a stump-to-roadside contractor owned by two brothers who also manage a large farming operation, which includes a herd of 250 elk.

Alain Chalifour (right) and his brother, Marcel, take turns working in the bush. Andre and Marcel own Almar Limbing, and alternate each week between their logging business and farm business.

Marcel and Alain Chalifour own Almar Limbing, which is based in Leoville, southeast of Meadow Lake, about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. They log both hardwood and softwood under contract to a woodlands management company called Mistik Management in areas both north and south of Meadow Lake.

While they have a decided preference for Tigercat equipment for harvesting, skidding, and for their processor carriers, they use multiple brands of processor heads.

Their fleet has three Tigercat TH575 processing heads, which includes the prototype purchased by the company in 2007. It is still being used and has over 18,000 hours on it. The prototype is mounted on a Tigercat H860C carrier and one of the newer units is mounted on an H855C carrier. However, as one example of the innovative thinking that takes place at Almar Limbing, one is also mounted on a modified Tigercat feller buncher.

Almar Limbing in SaskatchewanSomething else that is rather unique at Almar Limbing is that they operate all their processors in one area, making for an unusual scene of solid iron coming over the hill where up to nine processors are stationed along the roadway and working at various points. Alain says that the reason they have all their processors working this way is so that if something breaks down and it needs repair, there’s no driving to get to the unit. Also, it allows the company to move a processor into the broken down processor’s spot almost immediately, if needed.

They are always on the look-out for a good deal on processor heads, often finding one—as long as the head can do the job to mill specifications and is something they can maintain. They have been logging since 1991 so they understand how an attachment should perform, no matter what the brand name is on the head, just as long as they can find parts.

The family has a long history in logging. Marcel is the older brother and he started working in the industry by sub-contracting his services as a chainsaw operator, working with several partners who owned and operated line skidders. A pulp mill was built in Meadow Lake in 1991 and they wanted their contractors to adopt mechanical harvesting methods. Marcel purchased a delimber and continued to sub-contract his services.

“We operated delimbers until 1996 and then we bought out the A. Heppner and Sons logging contract,” says Alain. “We’ve been working for Mistik throughout all the years, with a bit of work for Tolko when we had time.”

Meadow Lake and area has a large, established forest industry. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) owns and operates a sawmill, NorSask Forest Products, Tolko Industries operates an oriented strandboard plant, and Paper Excellence Group operates a mechanical pulp mill. Mistik Management has a contract to look after woodlands operations for NorSask, Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp, as well as L & M Wood Products in Glaslyn, Saskatchewan, which is about an hour south of Meadow Lake. As part of its overall forest management duties, Mistik hires and supervises logging and log haul contractors.

The Chalifour brothers alternate, each spending a week working either in the logging side of the business or on the farm. That way, they both have a good understanding of what needs to be done on each side of the business and if either one needs to take some time off, there is always someone to back them up.

“This type of combination probably requires a partnership because it would be quite tough to manage on your own,” says Alain. “The busy time is obviously in the fall.”

Almar Limbing logs year round except for spring break up, which is good timing since that’s when the Chalifours seed their crops and bring their entire logging fleet into the yard for extensive maintenance work prior to taking them back to the bush about mid-June. The only time either brother will be away from the logging business for any length of time is during harvest—but Alain says they have a good logging crew capable of maintaining production during that time, plus Marcel’s son, Brodey, is one of their logging equipment operators. They crop 1500 acres of grain in the Leoville area, and come harvest time, their father, Andre, also lends a hand. Alain’s son, Braydon, also helps out in the logging business, operating equipment in the summers before returning to school.

A Tigercat 630D skidder at work for Almar LimbingA Tigercat 630D skidder at work for Almar Limbing. The company purchased its first Tigercat skidder in 1998; the owners were very satisfied with its performance and uptime, and the transition to the brand’s dominance within Almar Limbing’s fleet evolved from there.

They manage a logging camp about an hour from Meadow Lake and rarely work weekends. Given the camp’s close proximity to town and their work schedule, this helps them retain employees, in an environment where there is considerable competition for workers from the nearby oil and gas industry. They have 18 employees, and several have been with the company over 15 years.

Almar Limbing harvests about 300,000 cubic metres annually, which is about three times more than when they first started out. They harvest poplar, spruce and jack pine, with about three quarters being hardwood destined for the pulp mill in Meadow Lake and one quarter softwood shipped to NorSask Forest Products. The average diameter of the logs is about 14”.

“We were fortunate to be working for Mistik during the downturn because they were one of the few companies that kept logging,” says Alain. “It definitely was slower, but we kept on working.” They were able to keep working because so much of their harvest is hardwood. The downturn was largely driven by a sudden drop in housing starts in the United States and severely curtailed demand for softwood lumber. The company was harvesting a lot less softwood for NorSask during that time.

There are two primary sorts in their cutblocks, those being hardwood and softwood and this is handled by the skidders. The softwood is processed into 16’ and 8’ lengths with the focus on producing as many 16’ logs as possible because they are easier to load, while the hardwood is decked tree length.

Their fleet consists of one Tigercat 870C feller buncher, two Tigercat 860C feller bunchers, four Tigercat 630D skidders, and one Tigercat 630C skidder that is used primarily as a spare.

For processing heads, Almar Limbing has three Tigercat TH575 processing heads mounted on two Tigercat carriers and, as mentioned a converted feller buncher. They also have four New Holland 215 processor carriers with Denharco DHT650 processing heads, one Kobelco processor carrier with another DHT650 Denharco processing head, and one Komatsu PC200 processor carrier with a Southstar model 500 processing head.

“We probably own some of the only Denharco processing heads in Canada,” says Alain. He says the manufacturer was experiencing some financial difficulties at the time that Almar Limbing was looking to add to their processor fleet. They were familiar with the product and were able to acquire five heads at substantially discounted prices. Denharco delimbers are still available and marketed through Pierce Pacific.

Rounding out Almar Limbing’s fleet are a John Deere 2054 carrier with a Lim-mit 2100 delimber, and a Komatsu PC220 carrier with a Lim-mit 2100 delimber.

Alain says prior to Tigercat manufacturing purpose-built carriers for processors, they typically would use a feller buncher carrier. Given Almar Limbing’s familiarity with that approach, when it came time to purchase the new Tigercat 870C feller buncher recently, they simply converted their old 860C feller buncher to work as a processor.

“To trade in that buncher, you don’t get much money, so we decided to just try it as a processor and see how that would work for us,” he says. “It’s quite a difference in price when you purchase just a boom, stick and a head versus a complete unit. We still have some tweaking to do, but I think it will work out fine.”

Alain adds that not a lot of tweaking was required other than replacing a pump and a few valves, as well as installation of the computer system to operate the processing head. They were able to do most of the work themselves, with the final touches handled by Almar Limbing’s mechanic working with a Tigercat technician.

The company purchased its first Tigercat skidder in 1998; the owners were very satisfied with its performance and uptime, and the transition to the brand’s dominance within Almar Limbing’s fleet evolved from there. Alain says one reason why they have continued to favor the brand is because Tigercat has consistently been working hard to upgrade and improve its equipment, even through the downturn.

“We look for uptime,” says Alain with regard to what they expect from their equipment. “We spend our spring conducting preventative maintenance to try to eliminate as much downtime as we can through the season.” While it is impossible to eliminate all downtime, he says, starting with a reliable brand and sticking to a detailed preventative maintenance program really makes a difference.

Alain Chalifour (right) and his brother, Marcel, take turns working in the bush. Andre and Marcel own Almar Limbing, and alternate each week between their logging business and farm business.