By George Fullerton
The Canadian Woodlands Forum sponsors the Atlantic Outstanding Logging Contractor Award to recognize contractors and their contributions to sustainable forest management, and the 2017 award went to Dana S. Day Ltd., a harvest contracting operation based out of Wittenberg, in central Nova Scotia.
Dana Day has been involved in forestry for more than 50 years, with his first forestry job coming at age seven, going in to a lumber camp with his father on the weekends to feed horses.
As a youth, Day worked in the woods with family, on weekends and holidays, then went to work full time following high school.
His first paid employment was trail cutting eight-foot wood for his uncle, Carl Gilroy, who had a sizeable harvest contracting operation.
“My uncle was a great guy to work for,” says Day. “He certainly taught me a lot about forestry work and equipment.”
When Gilroy decided to downsize (aiming to retire) he sold a forwarder, a Buckmaster (sort of a pulpwood slasher) and pulp log loader to Day. After operating the forwarder for a time, Day sold it and bought a skidder. Over time, he hired crew and added skidders, building the operation to 22 employees, only a couple of which were younger than him. The business expanded to include trucking wood.
Since his early days in contract harvesting, Day has been associated with the pulp mill operating at Abercrombie Point in the western end of the Nova Scotia mainland. In the early days, the mill operated as Scott Paper, and after a few different owners, is currently operating as Northern Pulp.
Day moved into cut-to-length harvesting with a double grip Rottne in 1990, but soon traded up to a single grip Rottne, and had a series of three machines through to 2004.
“The challenge with single grip harvesters was to have the quality of wood which allows the harvester to work productively. Our typical stands were more often low volume and a feller buncher followed by processors were much more productive.”
Day eventually moved away from the harvesters, and teamed feller bunchers with tracked processors, but stuck with Rottne for forwarding power.
His current harvesting kit consists of two bunchers, two processors and two Rottne 16 tonne forwarders.
Day’s operator team includes Derek Ruggles on a John Deere 835G buncher with a Gilbert head. Carl Killam operates a TK 711 processor with LogMax 7000 head. Day’s son, Matthew, runs the new Cat 521B processor with LogMax 7000 Extreme head. Day’s cousin, Donnie Day, is the full time operator on one of the 16 tonne Rottne forwarders.
With the exception of Donnie Day, the crew has been working with Day for around 20 years.
On site is a second buncher, a TK 711 with Gilbert head, and a second Rottne 16 tonne forwarder. These act as back-up machines and Day operates either, depending on where the extra machine is required.
The sixth man on the team is Ralph Larkin, who in addition to taking care of machine maintenance and repair, also acts as safety rep, keeping an eye on the whole operation from a work safe perspective.
The crew participate in monthly tailgate meetings specifically for safety review. “Our crew focuses on safety every day,” explains Day. “We often use our two-way radios to bring attention to potential safety risks we see, so everyone stays aware and avoids those risks.”
The Day operation is also audited periodically by the Nova Scotia Forest Safety Society and has a Certificate of Recognition.
Day confesses a certain affinity with Caterpillar equipment for bunchers and processors.
“I have great confidence in the quality and performance of Cat (and Timber King) machines. We have gained a good deal of experience with Cat, and we understand what they need for long life and productivity. There is also a certain efficiency in stocking parts that fit in several machines.
“I’m very committed to using Cat OEM parts,” he added. “I know and trust Cat parts and filters. When I bought our first Cat-powered machine, a service rep pointed out that service life for major components (engines, pumps etc.) was about 10,000 hours. I told him I didn’t like to hear that, and if the salesman had shared that information before the deal was signed, I would not have bothered to buy the equipment in the first place.”
But that service life estimate has been significantly exceeded.
“I’ve found that my Cat machines have operated in excess of 30,000 hours before we had major rebuilds on those components” says Day. “We take good care and focus on service and are satisfied with the life and production we get out of the gear.”
That confidence in Cat resulted in purchase of the new 521 B processor. The machine is dressed up with a remanufactured LogMax Extreme head. The head was overhauled by LogMax at their Moncton, New Brunswick, shop. It is a high capacity and high performance head, and the 512 is a great match for it, says Matthew Day.
For years, Day operated his machines on a double shift basis.
“I never liked that schedule very much,” he explained. “I’m old fashioned, and I don’t sleep while I have people out working for me. Our night shift would get done at midnight and the day shift would start at 5 a.m. I would not go to sleep until midnight and then I would be up at 5 a.m., to see the crew get started.
“It was an intense schedule and I got tired of it so I decided I would move to single shift. I made my intention clear to the logging supervisors and they were not very happy, but I was convinced to go single shift. I knew my production and my business structure and I knew it would work. I would never consider going back to double shift.”
Currently, the work shift typically starts at 5 a.m. and operators shut machines down around 5 p.m. Extended commutes to the work sites may adjust the start/quit times somewhat.
All the machines are equipped with FPDat data recorders. Day explained it was his decision to install the devices. He uses the data to analyze machine productivity and shares the information with Northern Pulp logging personnel if there is concern about production or rates.
“With the FPDats, everyone is accountable,” he says. The operators punch in codes to identify uptime or downtime. The data it provides shows the contractor the uptime for the machine and reasons for downtime. Day said that if the machines are working productively, but roadside volumes are not meeting targets, there is a good argument to look at the nature of the stands and consider an adjustment on pay rates.
Nova Scotia logging contractor Dana Day makes an active contribution to the local Wittenberg community, including his faith community. He is also active in the Stewiacke Watershed Group.
“I live in the Stewiacke River Valley and I heard the watershed group was looking for volunteers to serve on committees,” he explained. “I emailed the group offering to participate—and they replied that I would be welcome.”
Day brought a wealth of knowledge of forestry operations and protecting water quality to the organization. He began working on a set of Best Management Practices guidelines for forestry operations. The guidelines were ratified first by the Stewiacke Watershed group and also by the provincial government.
Dana S Day Ltd. operations have been a repeat stop for the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s annual Teacher Tour. “It’s important for the forest industry to share with the public how our industry works and how we manage the resource sustainably,” says Day. “Teachers are very important because they can share what they learn on the tour with their peers and their students. I explain our operation in detail and I always underline that whatever I harvest, it turns green behind me.
“I am actually harvesting in the same blocks I harvested in when we were operating with skidders, in the early years.”
Day’s operation has also become a repeat destination for the South Colchester High School students who tour workplaces, which give students a perspective of diverse industries which don’t necessarily require a university education. “We share the ins and outs of the forest industry, and our operation. The students get in machines, we get them to increment bore trees, and many other things such as GPS mapping,” explains Day.
He shares with the students that while they might not need a university education to work in a mechanical harvesting operation, they won’t be able to go to work with a contractor with only Grade 6 abilities.
The Day operation typically works within about a one-hour commute of their base in Wittenberg, Nova Scotia. Occasionally, Northern Pulp has a more distant block assigned, as was the case recently, with a harvest block (on Crown land) south of Aylesford, in the Annapolis Valley.
The Annapolis valley has some of the most productive agricultural soils in the province, with orchards, vineyards and all sorts of cash crop and livestock operations. Heading south from the valley, the rocks get bigger and more numerous, with every kilometre.
At the Day harvest site, the granite boulders are presented in all sizes, right up to the proportions of a modest bungalow. The terrain is hard on tracks, hard on operators, and hard on maintenance staff.
The buncher will pick a good trail and work around obstacles, and the processors just have to follow that initial trail, confident they have a good safe trail. The forwarders follow the trail, and can work productively.
“Sometimes I will work around a particularly rocky spot, and get in as best I can,” explained buncher operator Derek Ruggles. “And sometimes we just have to leave some, simply because we cannot access them because there is just too much big rock.”
Paul Gilbert, forest operations supervisor with Northern Pulp, was behind the nomination of Dana Day Ltd. for Outstanding Logging Contractor of the Year. While Gilbert has only three years at Northern Pulp, his career has seen him working in the industry for nearly 30 years.
“It was simply an honour to nominate Dana for the award. Not only is he a gentleman, he is very professional in his business dealings and his forestry operation. When I am working with Dana, there are no worries about safety, environment or production targets,” says Gilbert.
“His work sites are always tidy, as is his service truck. The truck is well designed, well equipped and well managed, with parts and tools in their proper places.
“Dana’s crew always meets performance targets and he’s the first operator to shut down when conditions get wet and there are environmental concerns,” said Gilbert.
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