- July 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm #42923Ethan TapperParticipant
I was wondering if anyone was aware of any studies that have been done pitting draft powered logging against mechanized operations/hand crews, either in terms of nutrient output, sedimentation, water output or residual stand damage from logged areas. Learning about horse logging, it seems clear to me that draft powered forestry operations touch the forest more lightly than just about any other method of timber extraction… But has anybody done any research to this effect?
–EthanJuly 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm #68462Rick AlgerParticipant
There are some articles on the HHFF site. Scott Golden has posted some others, but there is still a lot to be done. I hope young folks like you will find a way to do more research to validate and quantify what we are capable of doing. There are only so many green yuppie woodlots to go around, but there are millions of acres of state, federal and timber company lands that could provide long-term full time employment if we could convince the powers that be that we offer measurable, bottom-line benefits.July 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm #68562Ethan TapperParticipant
Here are some sources I stole off http://sites.google.com/site/timberhorseforestry/, Scott Golden’s website:
–7 pages, mostly comparing soil disturbance in different traction-plus-forwarding mechanism arrangements (horse-forwarder, mule-forwarder, horse side-loader, etc.) but they compare to other studies done about soil disturbance with mechanized operations and hand crews.
4 pages, this one courtesy HHFF. A little more readable, I think. Also compares site disturbance in a similar way to the other article. Similar to the other article it doesn’t necessarily set animal traction and mechanized harvesting operations exactly side by side; A horse logger performs single tree selection on one site and a kind of odd mechanized set-up performs a clearcut elsewhere.
There are also some interesting articles about “social impacts” of horse logging.
Looking at these articles, they are interesting but to me lack the continuity, consistency and rigor that will really make people who aren’t convinced that animal traction in the woods is a good idea change their minds. There needs to be a real study, I think, a Hubbard Brook-type study in order to get into the nitty gritty of this stuff. Shoot, maybe I have to do it.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that the impact of any logging system is highly variable due to the operator. I met a forester who was turned off horse-logging because he saw a horse logger skidding a hitch down a stream. I have no doubt that there are highly mechanized systems that do a really good job, too, because they care about the woods deeply and are really knowledgeable and careful in the work they do. Somehow we need to take the human aspect out of it and show the inherent benefits that we all know are there in logging with animals.July 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm #68402
Ethan, I also think that the most important comparison is the difference between the type of forestry that MUST be practiced to facilitate mechanization vs. the type of forestry that CAN be practiced using draft animal power. There are so many culturally accepted assumptions about the way that logging MUST be done that are all based on the economic realities of machines, that forestry in practice reflects this narrow interpretation. With draft animals we can blow this out of the water, but we need to break down the reflex to out-compete machines at their own game. Thank you for your youthful enthusiasm. I am pleased to think about where you are headed.
CarlJuly 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm #68545
Let me first apologies because I know I am going to really tick off a whole lot of people when I say this, but I have been a professional forester for 15 years and I think a good conscientious logger with a cable skidder is equally as good as a team of draft animals only a lot faster. Trust me I am a life long ox man and hope to start ox logging 1/2 time soon but its true. I work with a few guys with older smaller skidders that do so good no horse, mule or ox could compete. Yup some loggers are horrible with skidders and fellerbunchers, but some guys highgrade the hell out of woodlots with horses too.
I truly do believe the difference is in the logger not the equipment. Maybe the logger you want uses horses maybe the logger you want uses a skidder but its the man (or woman) that makes the difference not the the equipment. Think of it like plowing a field. Is a field plowed with horses different then a field plowed with a tractor come August?
~TomJuly 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm #68536mitchmaineParticipant
hey tom, i’m no forester, but i have cut some wood. i owned skidders and horses both and used them. i think if you compared a really good skidder operator with a poor horselogger you might find a comparison, but an average skidder operator against an average horselogger has to be back about the tools. no way can a man running a 7 ton tractor pulling 3 ton of tree length wood up out of gullies and across wet runs and bending and scarring his way down out of a woodlot compete fairly with the same guy with a scoot and a team.
no matter how conscientious your logger is, he will have to try and push both sides of mud season as far as he can cause he has too. mud season never stopped horses. you can pile wood up to your hearts content and truck it next month. money in the bank.
sorry. i ain’t ticked off, i just see it different. mitchJuly 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm #68546
Again its the logger that makes the difference. I know two brothers with a pretty new JD 548, its a monster of a machine. But they manage to work around regeneration and take rainy days off. If you are a good conscientious horse logger Mitch I bet you can apply the same principles to logging with a machine.
Hey I am not knocking you, if I had horse loggers to work with here in Western Mass. I could keep them well supplied with woodlots. I hope to log with my team as soon as they are grown up a little.
I think of a conversation I had with a organic farmer one time. He said he wasn’t really strongly opposed to pesticides but that organic produce was what people wanted at the local farmers market.
I don’t see anything wrong with skid trails being wide enough for a skidder, or having the ground scarification they create. I often wish we had better scarification because thats were the best regeneration is.
But if you or I or anybody else can make a living catering to people who don’t like machines, while practicing good forestry and working with the animals we love, why not!
~TomJuly 25, 2011 at 9:47 am #68403
Tom, first let me say that I agree there are good skidder operators and bad horse loggers. The operator does make a huge difference.
Your comments however point out the very crux of the issue. The real difference comes down to the forestry.
If the comparison is about felling technique, ground disturbance, and the amount of wood moved to the landing, I agree, the differences will come down to the skill and commitment of the operators. In these comparisons that Ethan is looking for, there is an acceptance of the way that logging is done with machines. If we let skidders work to their greatest advantage, driving to/or near the stump, pulling tree length from group selection, in b-line cuts, under guidance from foresters who see their job as marketing agent with an eye toward the future of the forested asset, then friggin-A there is no way that any animal operation will even come close.
However if the forester sees access as an investment in long-term multiple-use infrastructure, manages for crop trees through single tree selection, and protects ecological factors through high residual stocking (short harvesting intervals), then the story shifts. If the skid distance is shortened, marking done to protect residuals, off trail impact minimized, and surgical removal required, then skidder operators will have to pull 150′ of cable to the stump, pull short-wood, and take off their chains to skid 500-1000 feet, their costs will sky-rocket. However, the animal operator will find this situation highly favorable.
This is not to say that we can’t get reasonable forestry done using skidders. I manage several operations every year with skidder operators, but I find I need to make allowances for the way they need to operate.
However, if the comparison is made between a good horse-logger with an insightful forester against any mechanical operation there will be no comparison in the application of good forestry. That comes from 25 years of providing forest management and harvesting with draft animals.
CarlJuly 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm #68547
Carl every time I read one your post I wish I was as well spoken as you. Maybe sometime I can check out one of your jobs.
~TomJuly 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm #68476simon lenihanParticipant
Monster skidder working around regenaration?, ground scarification with a skidder?. It is very rare to see a skidder working this side of the pond now. Horses skidding to a purpose built forwarder is the preferred method, the horses skid to a hard track for secondary extraction by forwarder. This minimises the amount of ground compaction and allows for single tree [ worst first ] removal using horses.
simon lenihan, http://www.celtichorselogging.comJuly 26, 2011 at 2:36 am #68404
@Baystatetom 28307 wrote:
Carl every time I read one your post I wish I was as well spoken as you. Maybe sometime I can check out one of your jobs.
Absolutely…. we are about to start up our cooperative horse-logging enterprise again for the remainder of the summer, starting Thursday. Break away and come on up.
CarlJuly 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm #68548
What I should have done to start with was to reread Carl’s earlier post and take time to let it sink in before I opened my big mouth.
Alternatively what I really should have said is that under the situations in which I usually work a horse is not a superior tool. Meaning that if I marked a stand of timber and had a skidder on half and a horse on half, after 20 years there should be no difference.
A horse would be superior to a skidder if it came to pulling 150 ft of cable to retrieve a single tree, but I wouldn’t mark timber that way to start with. I make sure the loggers have a full hitch within reach of the cable. ( the wiseguy in me wonders what if we used a horse to pull the skidder cable)
So why wouldn’t I mark timber that way. Simple, supply and demand. In some parts of the world there is a limited timber resource, therefor every acre of forest must be managed to reach its fullest potential. Frequent thinnings and perpetual single tree selections would let a draft animal system really shine. But here in north America we have such a great volume of forest that the value is lower. Rather then marking lite thinnings I just wait longer between harvests and then do heavier cuts. Supply and demand is behind the economics which control timber markets and forestry.
I do think there will be a time when draft animals are more common in the woods, but I really hope its not because we run out of timber and supply and demand shifts the other way. I think it will come because eventually the cost of oil and fuel will get high enough that the local horse logger will have a lower production cost then big timber business. Thats not going to happen right away so lets keep passing on our skills to our kids and grandkids so they can take advantage when its time.
In the mean time if you all can do that kind of harvesting now and make a living doing what you love, great I am envious.
~TomJuly 27, 2011 at 12:32 am #68405
Tom, this is a great discussion. I completely understand where you are coming from…… but wouldn’t you like to be able to mark differently….. don’t you FEEL something different in the forest than what you have been trained to see. I was trained the same way. I realize the supply and demand thing. As a consultant you need to practice the type of forestry that people are buying, but what if you were doing the harvesting yourself, with animals, reducing the need for more clients, and facilitating the kind of interaction with the forest that makes more sense?
This kind of gets back to your comment about the organic farmer…. I am the organic farmer who says “I don’t care what people want to eat, I farm the way I know I must to validate the way I feel about the Earth and the ecosystem around me”.
And using draft animals is a huge part of that for me.
And I’m the same kind of forester.
It’s okay if you and others aren’t. It takes all kinds. Just keep it in the back of your mind as you work with your steers, it doesn’t have to be a purely aesthetic choice, it can be the first step toward a very different, and in my mind superior, forestry product.
CarlJuly 27, 2011 at 1:35 am #68537mitchmaineParticipant
Back when I made the leap from horses to skidder, the machine was still just a mechanical horse. Even though yarding was so much easier, the logger still had to cut, pile and do his yardwork. Pulp was still four feet and boltwood 51”, and pallet and sawlogs. But you could still expect to cut 3 or 4 times as much wood in the same time. That said it would be expected that you would make 3 or 4 times the money, and you did, but you wouldn’t keep that money. A skidder cost lots of money to buy, fuel, run and maintain. Way more than the horses. Animals were still a viable choice . there were two pulpmills, three sawmills, two trapstock mills and dozens of firewood dealers within twelve miles of the house.
One sawmill remains. The rest are gone, and the wood around here gets chipped or shipped treelength to mills and sorting yards north of here. The horse is now expected to be the machine (like horse progress days pulling corn choppers and balers) and yard tree length wood. So we try to invent methods of moving long wood to accommodate the wood industry and compete for pulp and log prices designed around whole tree chippers. That’s how I see it from my perspective. And I don’t know how or if it fits in well with our discussion here, but I think it goes to ethans first question. There is a lot of good wood growing here in this state, and we chip it, ship it and give it away in the process.
There were once two or three wooden boatbuilders in everytown on the coast. Now you can count them on ten fingers. Horselogging would be a good living if there was someone out there who wanted to buy wood.
Sorry, Just rambling away here, but I feel better already. Thanks for listening. mitchJuly 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm #68549
Hey Carl, your preaching to the choir brother I am already there! I do want to shift into working my team in the woods. I am not sure draft animals are a superior silvicultural tool, however I do belief working with my oxen will better suite the relationship I have with the forest in which I work.
I have been slowly building up to it. Doing more chainsaw work in an attempt to build logging skills, collecting equipment etc.
My 5 year plan is to split my time three ways between running my grandfathers old handset chase mill, ox logging and forestry. The only thing I really need help with is convincing my wife:o.
Mitch I also feel your pain. For a few years I marked and sold pretty close to ten million feet, I used to have 15 loggers at every showing. Now its more like 5 and only 2 actually bid. I have had to diversify and do things like GPS trails in State parks and spray herbicide on invasive plants in order to pay the bills. Things can’t be bad forever, stay strong.
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