Big Equipment Upgrade  

N R Kenney Logging has gone for a big equipment upgrade, and the new Deere harvesting and forwarding machines have worked out quite nicely on the private woodlots they operate on in Nova Scotia.

By George Fullerton

Neil Kenney and his wife Ruth see a pretty positive future for their forestry business—good enough to invest in four new John Deere harvesting and forwarding pieces in the past year.                                   

For the past six years, N R Kenney Logging has been operating exclusively on private woodlots, all within a onehour commute of their home base in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Although the operation works on a lot of small cut blocks, their annual production averages around 100,000 tonnes.                                   

“My two Rottne 16-tonne forwarders were getting old and I was talking to several dealers about replacements,” Neil explains. “When I suggested to the Deere dealer, Wallace Equipment, that I was considering a straight purchase and no trade-in, they said they could offer a very good deal.”                                   

As things came together on the deal for the two Deere 1410 forwarders, Neil mentioned how well his Deere 2054 processor (purchased in 2005) was working and that the operation could use more processor capacity. Wallace came back with a three-machine deal that was very attractive.                                   

N R Kenney Logging has two Deere 2054 processors, both equipped with Waratah 622B heads. “Our Waratah heads help us serve our wood customers very efficiently,” notes Neil Kenney.  

Both processors are equipped with Waratah 622B heads. “We looked at three or four different heads for the first processor, and they all seemed to have their specialty, working especially well in a specific type of wood. Waratah was the one that I figured could handle the big rough trees we face, and still process small fir and black spruce very quickly and profitably. The Waratahs have proven to be very reliable, and the utilization has been very good.”                                   

In December 2006, Neil received a call that the track had broken on their buncher. “As we fixed it up, I realized that the tracks were just beat and I could expect another failure on the next shift,” says Neil. “We also had 12,000 hours on the engine, and when I looked at it critically, I could see that I could easily spend $50,000 on the old machine.                                   

“I had a long talk with Ruth and she was not comfortable with investing in another new machine, but after looking at the options she agreed that purchasing a new buncher made more sense that hanging on to the old one.” In January 2007, they took delivery of their new Deere 85 J buncher, with their old Quadco 60 degree rotation head installed, after a deep rebuild.                                   

Neil’s start in the harvesting sector began following graduation from Maritime Forest Ranger School in 1975. “I graduated right into a downturn in the industry and no one even called with a job interview, so it ended up that a friend and I bought a cable skidder and we went to work for Scott Paper.”                                   

The partnership lasted for a few years, and then Neil ventured out on his own. In the mid-1980s, he mechanized his operation with a slasher and a rail delimber. He bought his first buncher in 1989, and his first processor in 1992. In 1996, Neil began to pick up some private land contracts, and in 2001 his operation went totally to private land contracting and selling wood to mills in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.                                   

After operating N R Kenney Logging from their home outside New Glasgow for 27 years, Neil and Ruth bought a garage and land just off the Trans-Canada highway at New Glasgow. In 2005, they built a business office next to the garage. On the logging side, Neil explains that they operate with two, ten-hour shifts. “I have tried a lot of different schedules and the double ten works best for us. The day shift runs from 7 am to 5 pm, and the second shift runs from 5 pm through to am. I always try to be at the shop before 7 am so that I can have the opportunity to see the operators, and it provides the opportunity to discuss any work issues. I also try to get on the operation to see the night shift start.”                                   

There is a lot of competition for equipment operators in the region, so Neil takes good care of their people. “We pay a straight hourly wage. Last year I was looking at giving everyone a raise, but then I came up with a different deal where everyone can win a little.                 

“The deal was that there would be $50 more in their weekly paycheck if I didn’t see them without a hardhat on, or any other work safety infractions. The system has worked really well, and the wives have turned out to be the best supporters for our safety program. If that $50 is missing, the wife is looking for an explanation, and she is not about to offer much sympathy for forgetting to put on a hard hat.”                                   

Neil handles all the timber purchases, but points out that he relies on some very special contract talent to help him with woodlot evaluation and cruises, and for harvest layout. “Harvey Ford, a retired Stora forest technician, will cruise the woodlot as I get close to a deal with an owner.                                    

When I read Harvey’s report I get a very detailed picture of the block. If I have a question about anything on the woodlot, I can use Harvey’s information and map to go directly to the specific spot and assess it for myself.”                                   

Once they have either a stumpage deal or a lump sum deal with a landowner, Neil contracts Glen McNutt to do the harvest layout. His first step is to contact neighbouring property owners to explain to them that the property is being harvested, and determine if there are any property line issues.                                   

“The neighbour contact is also an opportunity to see if the neighbours might be interested in selling some wood, while we are operating close by—quite often we pick up some neighbouring wood,” says Neil.                                   

The equipment line-up at N R Kenney Logging also includes two Deere 1410 forwarders. Although the company works on a lot of small cutblocks, its annual production averages around 100,000 tonnes.  

Glen’s layout also includes mapping and flagging water course and wildlife buffers, machine exclusion zones, and wildlife leave clumps in the cut block. Neil provides Glen with a Palm Pilot equipped with Arcview to map the harvest layout so that Neil has both a copy for his Palm Pilot that he carries in the truck, and one for the office.                                   

“Most of the work we do is clearcut harvesting, but we have the equipment to do partial harvests when the opportunity arises,” says Neil. “I frequently run into people that want to farm their woodlots, but frankly most woodlots around here don’t lend themselves to partial harvest. There are a lot of old fields, abandoned around World War II, that came back in white spruce and they are mostly in full collapse now. There has been a lot of past management that does not lend itself to partial harvest methods at this point.” In the past, more than once, Neil has made the effort to work up a partial harvest plan and put together a deal, and as they got close to finalizing the deal, inevitably another contractor came along with an offer for $20,000 more, and the other contractor ended up clearcutting the woodlot.                                   

“Those deals left me out both the time and money. Now when someone wants a selection harvest, I point them to a consultant that will plan the harvest, and then I will give them a price for the wood after I see their operating plan.”                                   

At the end of every harvest contract, they ensure that the woodlot owner is scheduled for an assessment by a silviculture contractor in two years to determine if the site is naturally regenerated or if it requires planting. The Kenney operation has a good relationship with the Irving mills in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, for their sawlog material and high grade pulpwood. Low grade pulpwood goes to the Stora mill in Port Hawkesbury. For poplar, they have three markets: Atcon, Group Savoie and Louisiana-Pacific. A lot of their hardwood logs go to Group Savoie.                                   

“Our Waratah heads help us serve our wood customers very efficiently,” notes Neil. “For example, we recently got a call from Irving that their Truro mill was getting filled up with studwood, and that they were looking for sawmill material for their Chipman mill.                 

“In a matter of minutes, I was able to contact the processor operators and have them reset the product parameters for the heads—we were cutting logs for Chipman at mid-shift.” Kenney’s equipment line-up also includes a Komatsu 200 excavator and Western Star dump truck for road building. He also hangs on to the Rolly II fixed head that came with the Komatsu and uses it for partial harvest and residential lot clearing, where controlled felling is a benefit.  

Neil Kenney (right) and operator Robert Himmelman. The company has a bit of a unique deal for employees: There is $50 more in their weekly paycheck if Kenney doesn’t see them without a hardhat on, or any other work safety infractions. “The system has worked really well,” says Kenney.

N R Kenney Logging gained Atlantic Master Logger certification in 2006.

“Stora was making it clear that they wanted their wood suppliers to have certification to support the certified paper products they were marketing,” says Neil. “I figured it would not be long until other companies would be looking for similar qualifications. We had devised our own environmental and operations guidelines based on the system we had used when we contracted with Neenah Paper. Basically, the only additional paperwork development was to create pre- and post-harvest checklists and add them to our regular business documentation.” They had their audit during the summer, and received Master Logger certification later in 2006. “I think that over time, the certification will become better recognized by our woodlot customers, and be required by more and more of the mills we sell to. Certification, like good equipment and operators, is among the tools that help make us profitable and sustainable over the long haul.”  

Click here to download a PDF of this article.