At 78-years of age, Lloyd Spencer continues to take his regular shifts on his mechanized harvesting operation. Lloyd is in good company, working alongside his son Joey, and grandson Colin.
“I could stay home and sit in the living room, but what would be the fun in that?” quipped Lloyd.
In June 2022, L. E. Spencer Limited made a deal on a new Landrich 2.0 harvester, and the Landrich machine has found good favour with the second and third generation Spencers, and Lloyd agrees that the new harvester is meeting expectations.
“When it came time to buy a new harvester, I let Joey make the decision. Some day, I might retire, and he is the one who is going to pay for it, so he should have the machine that works best for him,” says Lloyd.
The Landrich 2.0 is the second generation Landrich manufactured by A. Landry Fabrication in Balmoral, New Brunswick. The Landrich is sold and serviced by their sister company, A.L.P.A. Equipment Limited, which has five dealerships across the Maritime provinces. A.L.P.A. is also a dealer for Ponsse forestry equipment, and the Spencers have a long business relationship with the dealer, having bought a couple of Ponsse H8 heads and worked with three Ponsse Buffalo King forwarders.
Lloyd Spencer began his contracting career in 1969 when he bought a new Timberjack cable skidder and went to work for J. D. Irving in their Chipman district. In 1998, Lloyd moved to mechanized harvesting with a used Timbco buncher. After a few challenging years with a couple of Timbcos, Lloyd bought a new Tigercat 870 buncher in 2002.
Another Spencer son, Chris, employed as a forest technician with the Southern New Brunswick Forest Products Marketing Board, would operate the Tigercat buncher on weekends. His son, Colin, showed an interest in operating equipment, and spent time with Lloyd.
“Colin had a pair of work gloves and he followed me around a lot as a youngster, watching and learning, and eventually found himself in the Tigercat seat,” shared Lloyd.
In 2007, after a major rate cut at Irving, Lloyd went to work for Twin Rivers (formerly Fraser Papers). In 2007, he added an excavator conversion with a Hornet head, followed by a second excavator conversion/Hornet and a Ponsse forwarder in 2012.
The Spencers realized excavator conversions and Hornets and big crew were not as productive as they needed, and in 2013, traded their Tigercat 870 for a Tigercat 845 machine, moving on from the conversion/Hornets and a Rottne forwarder. In 2014, they hung a Ponsse H8 on the 845, going forward as a two-machine harvest operation with a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder.
After a year with Twin Rivers, the Spencers began contracting for AV Group (Nackawic) for six years, and for the past seven years have worked for Arauco. Arauco operates a High Density Fibreboard mill (HDF) in St. Stephen which operated as Flakeboard for nearly 60 years, and continues to be a Crown lands sublicensee, sourcing wood from licenses 7 (Irving), 8 (AV Group) and 9 (Acadian Timber).
The Arauco mill utilizes 110,000 cubic metres of wood in chip form, from residuals and roundwood. The Spencer log production is trucked to Arauco wood yards and then chipped in the spring when in-woods chipping operations are down for spring road closure.
The HDF product is unique and finds uses as engineered products for furniture, interior fittings and other residential and commercial applications.
“The Spencers run a very good operation,” said Kirby Lusk, harvest supervisor with Arauco. “Lloyd brings a great depth of experience and Joey and Colin are excellent operators. We are very happy to have them as contractors.
“Companies and contractors face a lot of challenges in these times,” Lusk noted. “In higher quality stands, the Spencers do excellent partial harvest treatments. They are a very good team.”
The Spencers’ current production goal is 25 loads per week, for forty weeks per year for Flakeboard. Trucking is handled by D. Gillespie and Sons Trucking, who are based in southwest N.B., who truck softwood to Irving mills in Sussex and Chipman, then reload Spencer production to deliver to the Arauco yard.
In 2020, they installed a new Ponsse H8 harvest head on their Tigercat 845. When the new Landrich was getting ready to be delivered in 2022, the H8 head was installed on the new machine.
Joey admires the H8 for its capacity to handle large and small diameter stems. “The top saw provides a huge advantage for processing hardwoods, since they are limby and often crotched. With the top saw, we can often hang on to the stem as the top saw handles a crotch or big tough limbs, which would be difficult for the delimbing knives to handle.
“You can get away with a single saw if you were only working in softwood, but hardwoods present lot of challenges including weight and tree conformity,” Joey explained.
“We have had a great relationship with A.L.P.A. through the years,” said Lloyd. “The sales people are good to deal with, they keep a great parts inventory, and they have great service. We can call mechanics and they will provide good help over the phone. And their Fredericton shop is close to us.”
The recent equipment changes the Spencers have made have been beneficial.
“Over the years we had great service with Tigercat machines, but I never thought the saw power in the H8 Ponsse head was what it should be,” said Joey. “We had techs set up the pressures to the head, but it was still slow sawing. When we got the head on the new Landrich, the first time I hit the saw button, I had the power that I always thought it should have had.”
Joey and Colin share their appreciation for the new Landrich harvester. One of the highlights is having a larger cab set further forward on the upper body, providing better operator visibility than either their old Tigercat or the first version of the Landrich.
“We recognize the better visibility, and how it translates into less operator fatigue,” says Joey.
“The Landrich 2.0 front window is nice and tall, and wide enough that the operator can easily see both tracks. Additionally, the front window is tilted and the cab roof forms an eave over the front window, reducing debris and rain/snow accumulating, which would reduce the operator’s view of the work area.”
The Landrich 2.0 cab is substantially larger, providing more operator comfort and room for personal gear. The new Landrich came with palm grip controls, which Joey appreciates a great deal. “We’ve had Sure Grip controls which I found to be a bit big and clumsy, and where you mainly use your thumb and forefinger—it was causing repetitive use pain issues for me. I find the palm grips in the Landrich much more comfortable to use.”
Both Colin and Joey commented on the high quality LED lights for night operating.
Joey also assigns high marks to the Mercedes engine. “If our experience with the Mercedes engines we had in our Buffalo forwarders is an indication, we expect to get 30,000 hours of engine life, compared to the 12,000 to 18,000 hours we saw with our previous engines. We find that the Mercedes engine is much quieter, which is another bonus for operator comfort. Fuel economy with the Mercedes engine is 19.5 litres per hour compared to 22.6 litres per hour in the Tigercat, but we have to use DEF for the Tier 4 Mercedes.”
The Spencers operate two 10- to 12-hour shifts per day. Day shift generally stops at 4 p.m., and the night shift is underway by 6 p.m. The operators work two weeks’ dayshift, and the next two weeks on night shift.
The service truck is a tandem, which allows it to comfortably weight scale on the highway with the enclosed diesel tank full. The truck has the necessary generator, welder, hose assembly parts and tools, along with necessary hand tools and popular replacement parts.
“Lloyd forwards on the same shift with Colin, and if we have lots of wood on the ground, Roy Saulnier forwards on my shift,” says Joey, outlining their staffing.
“Roy has worked with us for over 15 years. He is in his late-70s and he does not want to work full time, so he does not mind missing a shift if wood is caught up well.
“Lloyd, on the other hand, likes to work pretty steady. Roy is simply a great operator, takes great care of the Buffalo King doing service and making repairs as needed. Roy fits in our operation extremely well.”
About 75 per cent of their harvest prescriptions are partial cuts where they typically remove about 30 per cent of the standing volume, retaining the highest quality sugar maple and yellow birch. Typical trail width is six metres, with side thinning in the eighteen-metre wide leave strip.
“We are very happy working with the Landrich,” summarizes Joey. “It matches with the Ponsse H8 head extremely well. It has power, comfort and visibility features which make it a superior harvester.”