By Nathan Medcalf
Moggie Valley Timber, located in Grey County on Georgian Bay, in southwestern Ontario, is a sawmill that sells to lumber wholesalers and retailers, and has been in business for nearly a quarter of a century, so they’ve seen a few industry cycles—including the huge jump in lumber demand that followed COVID-19.
Moggie Valley Timber also carries out logging. They cut about 10 million board feet (or 30,000 bush cords) per year, and most of the company’s timber is cut off county forests, local conservation authorities, and private lands that have a forest management plan.
“When wood gets tendered out, we bid on it, and if we are the successful bidder, then we get the wood,” says Rob Beirnes, the owner of Moggie Valley Timber, matter-of-factly.
The company was founded by Beirnes and Bill Ottewel. The company later brought in David Seamen and Jerome Moran as partners. Moran retired and sold his shares to Beirnes. Seamen eventually sold all his shares to Roy Carrol, who eventually sold his share to Beirnes, but stayed on as a sales consultant. Carrol is also part owner of Peter Angus Forest Products—a lumber wholesale company with whom Moggie Valley Timber does business. Today, Beirnes is the sole proprietor of the company.
About 90 per cent of Moggie Valley’s wood goes into the pressure treated market. The company produces a lot of 4 x 4s, 6 x 6s, and 2 x 4s; a very small amount of what they produce goes into cedar decking that gets sold for local consumption, and they have a joint venture with Ground Up Contracting to produce mulch (natural cedar, natural pine and black mulch).
“The retail side of the company seems busy, but it comprises less than five per cent of our revenue,” says Beirnes.
During 2021, and so far into 2022, demand for lumber during COVID has been high. Profit for a lot of lumber companies was also high. But, a lot of lumber companies haven’t been able to translate profit growth into company growth, because they can’t find operators.
“With timber accelerating in price since the pandemic, we would like to have increased production, but that has proved impossible,” says Beirnes. “We can’t find the employees to meet the current demand, never mind increasing production. The price factor helps with the bottom line, so we have become more profitable, but we can’t grow the business.”
On the logging side, in order to harvest the larger trees that Moggie Valley Timber comes across on woodlots in this part of Ontario, the company has invested in an Eco Log 590F harvester.
Moggie Valley Timber has been a long-time customer of Eco Log machinery; they have purchased 10 harvesters and forwarders from their Canadian Eco Log dealer since the company was founded.
They also loved the service they were receiving from the dealer until that dealer lost the Eco Log dealership contract, and a new dealer took over: Strongco is now the exclusive dealer for Eco Log’s harvesters, forwarders and accessories across Canada.
When they purchased the 590F, they had intended to trade in their Eco Log 580 harvester, but found that, in the end, it made more sense to hang on to the 580.
Moggie Valley Timber was using the 580 harvester as their main harvester prior to purchasing the 590F. They now use both in the field.
“We’ve got an operator in each,” says Beirnes. “And, we would love to have more operators. There’s work for them. There’s always more work for harvesters; that’s one of the reasons we decided to keep the 580.”
Although the 590F is being funded by Moggie Valley Timber, it will be used by a joint venture between Beirnes and his harvester operator, Ryan Walker. The joint venture supplies Moggie Valley Timber with wood for their sawmill.
“I was comfortable setting up a joint venture with Ryan Walker because I’ve already been operating in joint venture with equipment operator Clint Middleton for a decade,” says Beirnes. “Sometimes, joint ventures are the only option when labour shortages hinder business growth.”
The Eco Log 590F is the manufacturer’s largest harvester in the company’s 500 series of F-harvesters. It comes equipped with a 320-hp (239-kW) Volvo Penta engine and a 310 kNm crane to handle larger trees quickly, safely and cost-effectively. The machine’s stage V Volvo Penta engine provides high performance, reliability and fuel efficiency, says Eco Log.
The 590F features a unique pendulum arm suspension for superior maneuverability and terrainability. The pendulum arms can change the machine’s ground clearance from four inches to four feet, which is useful for clearing logs and rocks.
The harvester can also be equipped with a balanced bogie for added stability. By levelling and adjusting the machines to the prevailing ground conditions no matter the terrain, the cab always remains level, and the machine can remain level even on steep slopes.
“On a sidehill, one side of the machine will lift to keep the cab level and make the machine more stable. We always use that feature, However, our forwarder doesn’t have that feature, so while we can harvest on steep grades, we still have to be careful moving the wood out,” said Beirnes.
The pendulum arms also help with servicing the vehicle since the machine can be lowered, which puts service access points in reach from ground level. All service points are organized under one of several large hoods for easy access.
Moggie Valley Timber paired their new 590F with a Log Max 7000C harvesting head. It is a large head for really heavy timber, with a maximum cutting diameter of 75 centimetres, a minimum delimbing diameter of four centimetres, and is very productive in the 16-to-50-centimetre-diameter range.
High-performance saw hydraulics provide full flow to the bottom saw for fast cutting in all timber sizes. Variable displacement feed roller motors provide fast speed in smaller wood and automatically regulate to provide more power in tougher limbed trees. Built on a tough frame, the 7000C combines high drive power and high speed for excellent performance in heavy and branchy trunks.
On Moggie Valley Timber’s Eco Log 580, the company has attached the slightly smaller Log Max 6000 harvesting head.
Rounding out the company’s field fleet is a 14-ton Rottne forwarder and a 14-ton Eco Log forwarder. At the mill, the company runs two Cat loaders, a JCB loader, and a 1938 Yates planer.
“We just keep the planer up and running, and it is probably one of the most solid pieces of machinery we’ve ever owned,” says Beirnes. “The parts are still fairly easy to come by; we can get bearings and shafts and all the other parts we need to keep it going.”
Their main mill production equipment is a Select double-cut band saw. The Select model 4221 that Moggie Valley operates 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.
For mulching, the company uses a Morbark tub grinder that they rent from Ground Up Contracting.
With a solid equipment line-up at the mill and in the woods, Moggie Valley Timber looks to be positioned well, as Ontario moves into a post-pandemic recovery.
On the Cover:
Moggie Valley Timber, located in southwestern Ontario, is a sawmill that sells to lumber wholesalers and retailers, and has been in business for nearly a quarter-of-a-century. Moggie Valley Timber also carries out logging, cutting about 10 million board feet per year. On the logging side, in order to harvest the larger trees that Moggie Valley Timber comes across on woodlots in this part of Ontario, the company has invested in an Eco Log 590F harvester. Read all about how the Eco Log 590F is working out for Moggie Valley in this issue, beginning on page 34. (Cover photo and story photos courtesy of Moggie Valley Timber).
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