Business profile: Bryant Logging

By: Randall Johnston, Photography by: Randall Johnston

Deals on Wheels visited the crew at Nigel Bryant Logging’s Okarimo site to check out their new John Deere 959MH tracked harvester

This latest machine purchase of a 40.9-tonne tracked harvester with a Satco 630H felling head from dealer Drummond & Etheridge comes at a busy time for the crew, as they were operating at full tilt in the busy lead up to the Christmas break.

Other machines on site working when we arrived on site included a wheeled 300hp, 22.4-tonne John Deere 948L grapple skidder with a huge grapple width capacity of 2.7m2, powered by a 6.8-litre engine, as well as a 14.6-tonne John Deere 648H log skidder with a one square metre capacity grapple that automatically detects and maintains clamp force if a log gets snagged. The team says both machines are designed for stability and power, and are proving to be good reliable workhorses on a site that has plenty of tricky terrain.

Investing in capable machinery

New John Deere 959MH tracked harvester is making light work of the job on a forestry block 10 minutes out of Havelock

Nigel Bryant Logging spokesperson Joyanna Winn explained that the company is very optimistic about the future of forestry in New Zealand and is investing in the latest machinery to help keep up with demand.

"We’ve already purchased two of these John Deere machines and have found them to be reliable. They’re a well-built machine that is very tough and highly capable when handling large-sized wood," she says.

The terrain where the new John Deere 959MH is being used is steep and rugged and the tracks can get slippery after heavy rain. That in itself can pose a few challenges, although the 959MH is designed to perform well in areas where traction could be compromised for other similar machines.

The business works for a number of forest managers and currently owns more than 100 pieces of equipment. Its crew configurations are either hauler or ground based.

"This recent purchase (JD 959H) was bought as a felling machine, using a Satco 630H felling head and is often used with a tether machine. In addition to purchasing the machine due to its durability, we purchased it because of its self-leveling capability, which is ideal for steep terrain," says Joyanna.

Operator Jarrrod Hodges couldn’t agree more, saying that now he’s had time to adjust to the machine, it’s a lot smoother than an older different brand he was using and is able to get more done as a result.

The crew

Operators Rob Wearing, Tyrone Wairau, Jarrrod Hodges in front of the new harvester

Nigel Bryant Logging has 12 sites in operation, all of which are hives of activity throughout the year.

"Our largest mechanised crew is Boar, Nelson, which has a Waratah loader processor, Bell loader, felling machine, tether machine, hauler, backline machine (usually a dozer or excavator), and a skidder," says Joyanna.

The fleet is divided up depending on the location and methodology of harvesting (if they are a ground-based or hauler crew). All crews have either a loader or grapple excavator for loading trucks and an excavator with Waratah attachment for processing.

"Our hauler crews have a hauler for extracting stems to the landing, and our ground-based crews will generally have an excavator with grapple for shovelling trees on the hill, and then a skidder for extracting the stems to the landing," says Joyanna. The company now has 11 felling machines and around nine tether machines that are used in conjunction with them.

"In terms of staffing, our hauler crews usually have a larger staff to machine ratio, with around 9-12 workers on site, due to the manual aspect of breaking out the trees," she says.

"Our fully mechanised ground based crews usually have between five to seven workers. The crews are highly specialised and generally contain a mix of young and older workers, who help to pass on their experience to the new generation. The past couple of years have presented a few challenges, predominantly due to Covid-19 and market fluctuations, but we remain optimistic."

Mechanised harvesting

The site is busy and requires working on steep slopes on challenging terrain

Nigel Bryant Logging currently has 116 staff, of which roughly 70 are machine operators spread throughout the Nelson-Marlborough region. The logistics of production across these sites is reasonably complex, however utilising the latest machinery and technology does help its crews to overcome these.

"Technology has been rapidly evolving over the past 10 years with a drive towards having less workers manually falling trees and breaking out, and a focus on more mechanised harvesting," Joyanna says.

"Overall, this change has had a positive impact within the industry and, while not every forestry block is able to be manually harvested or extracted, having a fleet of felling machines means we’re able to predict more evenly our production compared to manual harvesting, which is more fluid. It also reduces the number of injuries and incidents relating to manual falling."

Education and development

Satco 630H felling head from dealer Drummond & Etheridge makes felling a breeze

It can be reasonably difficult to find experienced operators in the Marlborough region, however Nigel Bryant Logging has a commitment to its education and development.

"We are not focused on just our experienced workers. Instead, we actively recruit, cultivate and train newcomers with no experience within the forestry industry. This year we hired 13 new workers, of which seven to nine of them have had little to no experience within the industry," says Joyanna.

The remaining workers hired do have experience operating machinery, but this shows the commitment the company has toward fostering new talent and presenting them with solid employment opportunities – in demographic areas where promising career pathways can sometimes be especially hard to come by.

The future of forestry

A wheeled 300hp, 22.4T John Deere 948L grapple skidder with a huge grapple width capacity of 2.7m2 in action

New Zealand forestry has always been strong globally, and this is set to continue, with the future panning out positively in terms of sheer demand and supply – particularly for natural building products.

"We’re optimistic about the future of forestry in New Zealand," says Joyanna. "While there may be some challenges New Zealand has to face due to climate change and a focus on further improvements regarding environmental stewardship, we’re anticipating a fundamental change to the way things have been done, which includes using more wood for building instead of steel and HOG fuel replacing coal."

Equipment purchases

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14.6T John Deere 648H log skidder with a 1m2 capacity grapple is at home on and off the steep trails

The company purchased its first machine from Drummond & Etheridge (a wheel loader) at the end of 2020. The new John Deere 959MH tracked harvester is the second machine from them and, having been impressed with their service, it says it is looking forward to doing business again in the future.

In the last 12 months, Nigel Bryant Limited has purchased:

  • Boar, Nelson-based mechanised hauler crew has received an Eltec felling machine, Sumitomo Tether machine, a Bell and a Volvo L-90 wheeled loader.
  • NBL, Blenheim-based mechanised ground base crew has received a 959 felling machine and an EC220 Volvo excavator with grapple (arriving soon)
  • LC-1, Blenheim-based mechanised ground base crew has received an EC300 Volvo felling machine
  • The company has also purchased another EC300 Volvo shovel digger

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