November 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Select Help for Sawmill
A new Select double-cut band saw is helping sawmill Moggie Valley Timber deal with the larger red and white plantation pine now coming its way from second and third thinnings in central and southern Ontario.
By Paul MacDonald
Things were busy this past summer at Ontario’s Moggie Valley Timber, with at least a couple of big events happening. Forestry operations manager Rob Beirnes and his wife, Lisa, gave birth to their second child, Jaclyn Marie, who came in to the world at eight lbs, thirteen ounces.
The other event was of the sawmill kind, and came with the introduction of a new Select double-cut band saw at the mill.
The new mill equipment is helping Moggie Valley deal with the larger red and white plantation pine that is now coming its way from second and third thinnings in central and southern Ontario. And it should also help the operation contain costs and generate more revenue.
Moggie Valley Timber had been sending out its larger logs and having them custom milled at some of the Amish mills in this part of west-central Ontario. “But it really got to the point that we were handling the wood too much,” says Beirnes. “And when we sent it out, we lost the bark, the chips and the shavings. And in this business, that can represent your profit at times.”
The new Select sawmill equipment is just the latest development at Moggie Valley Timber, which set up shop seven years ago on 10 acres near the community of Holland Centre, just south of Owen Sound, Ontario. The business is run by Beirnes on the woodlands side, partner and uncle, Jerome Moran, who handles the sawmill side, and another partner, Bill Ottewell, who takes care of the planer operations, a refurbished Yates machine.
A recent addition to the partnership is Peter Angus Forest Products, a Torontobased wholesaler and distributor of forest products. Peter Angus takes care of all their sales and assists on the financing side. “It’s worked out really excellent,” says Beirnes. “They will try to sell two to three months in advance for us, and we put together the production schedule to meet those needs.”
Part of the inspiration to start Moggie Valley Timber came when Beirnes noticed—while logging for the Amish operations—that there was a large amount of white and red pine in the region that was coming on stream and would be in need of its first thinning.“And that’s what we specialize in with our harvesting now, thinning in plantation wood.”
About 60 per cent of their timber comes from public land—the counties and conservation authorities that have bush acreage in this part of Ontario. A county or conservation authority could have up to several thousand acres of forested land.
The balance comes from private woodlots. They source timber from all over southern Ontario, right through to Windsor, and north to North Bay. The timber sourced from the northern areas tends to be from private land, while the wood from the south generally comes from public land. “That wood from public land all goes out to tender and we have to bid on it,” explains Beirnes. “We have to find all our wood—we don’t have a public cut like Tembec or Domtar.”
In some cases, they are already returning to log in areas they harvested when Moggie Valley was started up. “Generally, a good rule of thumb is to go back every seven to 10 years. But some private wood is way overdue—it should have had a first thinning 15 or even 20 years ago, and in those cases we can go back again in five years.”
Locally, the mill is making use of a timber resource that was at times not used previously. Before the sawmill was set up, the only market for timber from the area was for pulp and paper, which meant transporting logs eight hours to mills at Espanola or Sault Ste Marie.
“Lots of people just thinned their bush and let the wood lay there,” explains Beirnes. “We figured it had to be worth something and just started out small, renting a scragg mill.”
Things went well and they ended up purchasing a used scragg mill from an operation in Penetanguishene, then added a Forano debarker and transfer equipment from TS Manufacturing.
They produce squares, 4x4, 6x6, and some two-inch stock, 90 per cent of which goes for pressure treating. The company sends the wood out to about half-a-dozen pressure treating companies in southern Ontario. “We like to spread the business around.”
They expect to produce about 10 million board feet this year with the new bandmill, up from the eight million board feet they produced in 2004. They’ll require about 40,000 cubic metres of wood this year to achieve those numbers.
With the addition of the Select sawmill, production has changed a bit.“With the band saw, we have now been able to better utilize our bigger material, and produce 1x8 and 1x10,” says Beirnes. Early in the summer, they shipped out their first load of mixed 1x8 and 1x10, dried, S4S white pine.
The Select model 4221 that Moggie Valley opted for, a stationary model, has a reputation for high production, with a cutting speed of up to three feet per second. The 4221 can cut logs up to 42 inches in diameter up to a 22-foot length.“We like the Select set-up we have,” says Beirnes. “We think it’s going to work well for us.”
Being a mid-sized operation, they have a very “hands-on” approach to production and quality at Moggie Valley, which they see as giving them an edge over larger operations. “Because we’re so small, we stress quality control. We see every piece that comes out,” says Beirnes. “If someone called us up to talk about the load they received, we’d know exactly which sticks they were talking about.”
While the company does not sell graded wood, the wood it turns out is— from their perspective—all appearancegrade wood. “It’s not like 2x4s which can have a bit of wane on them because they’re going to be inside a wall. Treated wood is all appearance wood because you can see it.”
The supply of timber seems to be reasonable these days, and it is even picking up a bit. Beirnes notes that in some years past, they have had to shut down for perhaps a week or two each year due to a lack of timber. But that scenario has changed, especially with the new mill equipment.
“When we started up seven years ago it was a bit of a struggle. There were all kinds of trees 15 to 20 years old where it was going to take another 10 years before it was time for a first thinning. There is still that class of tree out there now, but we’re able to go back to places where we thinned before, so the loop is getting bigger.”
But with the relatively small size of lots to be thinned, the equipment is kept on the go. “Every week, we float the equipment to a different area.” They will try to concentrate several areas to be harvested in a single go. For example, they might try to get three or four 12-acre bush thinnings within a single concession.
“That’s where having the rubber-tired Rottne equipment comes in handy. We don’t need to float it, we can just walk it down the road to the next area to be thinned.”
The ground they are working in locally is generally hilly and stoney—much of it farm land that has now been put back into trees. As a result, they’ve had their share of damaged tires on the logging equipment, and chainsaws occasionally hitting rocks hidden behind a tree, sending sparks flying. “Every area is different,” says Beirnes. “If we go to nearby Simcoe County, it’s flat as a pancake, with sandy ground growing beautiful red pine and with good trail systems.”
Generally, they try not to take on jobs that involve less than 100 cords, but of course, there are always exceptions. “You never know,” says Beirnes. “The guy you’re talking to with the small area to be thinned might know someone with a good couple hundred acres. We always say you got to take the bad with the good.”
In the past, they steered clear of having too many large logs in the mix, knowing that they would have to be milled outside. “It really didn’t make sense to bid on a lot of that wood,” says Beirnes. “But I know there’s a lot more larger logs up north that we can probably purchase now, and then put through the new system at the mill and gain from the production of wood and byproducts.”
In dealing with private landowners, the first thing landowners might tell Beirnes is that they don’t want any big harvesting equipment on their property. “But then I’ll take them for a drive and show them the last job we did. Sometimes, the bigger equipment does a lot neater job; it’s able to handle the wood better.
“Most people who have plantation pine realize there have to be stages of thinning, to open up the forest and let light in. But there are a few who say, ‘I planted those trees and they will never see a chainsaw.’ They just don’t want it cut.”
While the wood for pressure treating is by far their main market, they produce a small amount of dimensional lumber, mostly 2x4s, from off-cuts. The new relationship with Peter Angus Forest Products also paid off in this area this past spring, when they had about 200,000 board feet of 2x4s on sticks in the yard. “Normally, we would have just blown that lumber out the door,” says Beirnes. “But with the Angus support, we were able to hang on to the lumber, air dry it and get a considerably better price for it.”
For the time being, they are working on getting the most out of the relatively new mill set-up, getting production up, and making sure they use all of the fibre. All of their bark now goes into landscaping mulch, the chips go into pulp, and sawdust goes to a pressboard operation in nearby Huntsville.
“That’s really the way we are going to increase our sales and revenues here,” says Beirnes. “We have to produce more wood, and faster, and also take care of our byproducts.”
Rottne the way to go for Moggie Valley
Moggie Valley Timber contracts out some harvesting, but also does harvesting of its own, using a Rottne SMV single grip harvester with a LogMax 5000 head and a Rottne 12- tonne forwarder with 16-tonne boom. “The forwarder is probably overkill, we don’t really need anything quite that big,” says forestry operations manager Rob Beirnes. “But it shares some parts with the harvester, so we don’t have to carry as many spares.”
The Rottne equipment, supplied by Rocan Forestry, has worked out well for the company. “It’s been exceptional,” says Beirnes. The harvester has seven years under its belt, and they are likely to be looking to purchase a new machine in the not too distant future, very likely another Rottne.
In addition to the Rottne equipment, they have two logging trucks, Western Stars, and contract out additional work to local outfit, Dinsmore Trucking.
Unless they are really pushed, they keep the logging equipment running on a single-shift basis. “We’ve experimented a bit with double-shifting, and putting a night shift in, but we felt that we’d rather stick with one shift and one operator. Our operator, Clint Middleton, knows the machine, looks after the maintenance, and knows when there might be a problem. He’s excellent.”
In addition to sourcing their own wood, they also buy timber from about five contractors on a fairly regular basis, and another five less regularly.
“A lot of these guys out there are our competition when it comes to bidding on standing timber, but they still sell their logs to us. If they feel they can beat us on the bid price, can buy the timber and then sell it to us, all the power to them. All we really care about is getting the wood in here for X amount of dollars.”
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