Module 12: Small Scale Harvesting Equipment - What's Right For You?

Lesson Seven - Putting It All Together

Lesson Seven brings together the information from the previous lessons to guide you to choosing the best options for you. You may have good idea of what your main piece of equipment will be from Lesson One. Or you may have decided to go with one of the equipment options mentioned in Lesson Four. You have read about various attachments and accessories and what they can do and also about winching and forwarding.

This lesson applies your personal objectives from Lesson One to the other information in the Module. It also looks briefly at environmental concerns while harvesting wood and how you can reduce damage while using your equipment.


A whole book could be written on how to minimize damage to your woodlot. A good one is - Preventing Soil Damage, A Practical Guide to Forest Operations, an easy- to- read guide published recently by FERIC. Some of the main points are summarized below but you may also want to read the guide itself. See Appendix A.

Why is prevention important?

Good soil is vital to the health and future of your woodlot. It supplies food, gases, water and support to your trees. Harvesting equipment can damage the soil by compaction, rutting, and erosion which results in a loss of nutrients. Find out what kind of soil or soils you have in the area you plan to harvest (fine, organic, shallow, dry, etc). Learn about the techniques to use for your kind of soil.

Damage can be prevented first of all by matching your equipment to your woodlot and your needs and secondly by how you use it. Some modifications help in one area but cause more damage in another so some balance or trade offs may be necessary. Planning your operation in advance is the key to avoiding a situation that may cause damage.

Outfitting to prevent soil damage

  • Wide trailers with a low load reduce compaction.
  • Wide tires reduce rutting.
  • Boogie wheels reduce compaction.
  • Chains reduce slippage.

Harvesting to prevent soil damage


  • Plan runs and trails to avoid wetlands.
  • Cover trails especially sensitive areas the branches before passing over them.
  • Put roads and landings so that work is done downhill slopes rather than up hill for less wheel slippage (if work is done when the ground is dry or frozen, otherwise it may cause rutting) however hauling wood down hill may focus water travel.


  • Fell logs in direction of cable run

Skidding and forwarding

  • Avoid driving equipment in wet spots or soft soil
  • Stay on designated trails
  • Harvest in dry or frozen conditions
  • Skid soon after cutting before soil wets up
  • Drive slowly

After harvesting

  • Smooth out ruts to prevent erosion
  • Put in diversion ditches on trails that will no longer be used

For more information on crossing streams, and preventing erosion see Module 11, Roads and Trails - Building it Right from the Start. For more information on working near riparian areas see Nova Scotia Wildlife Habitat and Watercoruse Protection Regulations.


You can finally now apply your objectives from Lesson One with the information from the other Lessons (summarized in Charts below) to complete the final exercise.

Note that overall efficiency may be the same for different attachments since some can take bigger loads. It will depend on how much wood you want to move in total.

Remember your list of objectives from Lesson One? Review them here. Have any changed?

Your Objectives

Check off your objectives for buying or improving your harvesting system.

___ To harvest _____ cords/m³ per year.
___ To harvest firewood
___ To harvest saw logs
___ To sell ______ cords/m³, per year or earn $______ in income.
___ To maintain forest cover through selection cuts only
___ To maximize income from my woodlot
___ To spend time in the woods doing productive and enjoyable work
___ To get a system that requires as little lifting as possible
___ To get a system that is as cheap as possible
___ To do the work myself
___ Other ____________

Prime Movers

These numbers on page 52 are only a guide. However, the numbers in these charts can be used for relative comparison of machine types. Generally speaking, as machine horsepower increase so does cost, thus a larger harvest will be required to make a purchase economically viable. The productivity figures are based on an average extraction distance of 100 meters on level terrain, and do not account for felling time. Skill level, terrain, extraction distance, and wood size will all impact on productivity. Maximum travel distance and annual harvest listed is based on load size, and machine speed. The larger the load and the higher the speed, the greater the distance that is feasible. However, ultimately the maximum distance will be determined by your circumstances, productivity concerns and how much you plan to harvest per year.

Purchasing equipment is an investment. It is a good idea to find someone who is working with the type of equipment you are considering to make sure it is the right decision for you and your woodlot.

(To convert from m3 to cords - m3 X 0.276 = cords)

Chart One: Comparison Chart for Prime movers


To help you decide, consider these factors:

  • How much wood am I cutting?
  • Cost verus How much do I want to spend
  • Do I need to skid logs out?
  • Do I need to forward logs?
  • How far do I need to forward the wood?
  • Do I need a trailer as well?
  • Can I load it manually or do I need a loader of some kind?
  • Am I harvesting enough to invest in a winch or trailer?
  • Can I forward wood on the road with a truck?
  • Is a used attachment available? Can I build it?
  • Can some parts of the work be contracted out?
  • What are the characteristics of my woodlot?
  • Does it have sensitive or wet areas? riparian zones? steep slopes?
  • Do I need more than one attachment so I can skid and forward?
  • Do I have the time and skills to harvest my own wood? Do I have the time to learn?

Chart Two: Attachments

Chart Three: Other Equipment


Remember this from Lesson One?

Has it changed after reading the Module? This Exercise also asks a few more questions and looks at cost over time. Fill in your situation.

Have equipment (List) Do not have equipment




Equipment adequate/ Not adequate (List what is and is not adequate) Decide what you need




Buy or build equipment (List with prices)






Costs/Time - Making a wise investment is important to you

The total price may seem like a lot or more than you want to spend. By going through the next part of the exercise, you can see how it is balanced against income and over a number of years.