Utilising a fleet of three forwarders and three harvesters, Lynch Harvesting Ltd. – which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year – provides exceptional thinning and clearfell services across counties Leitrim, Cavan and Roscommon. We touched base with founder / proprietor Tommy Lynch to find out more about this superb operation.
County Leitrim is beautiful but it’s no employment hotspot. Thus, the enduring success and viability of Lynch Harvesting down through the years represents a wonderful success story. As well as providing professional forestry services, the self-made business generates direct gainful employment for a crew of eight, including founder Tommy Lynch and his wife Miriam.
Tommy, who has dedicated his whole working life to local forestry, set up the business at a time when the spectre of emigration was looming large over his future – but he wanted to build a life for himself on the home sod…
“I completed my Leaving Cert in 1988 and qualified from Athlone Regional with a Diploma in Business Studies in 1992,” he reflects. “When I came back home, there was practically no employment. I had worked in London during the summer and realised that I didn’t want to emigrate.”
The Leitrim man found employment in the forestry sector working with a chainsaw in front of harvesters. He yearned to be behind the wheel, though. “I remember spotting my first timber harvester in Bawnboy in the early 1990s and – maybe naively – I wanted to own one. I had a plan of sorts in my head at that stage. I worked for a few contractors and spent two years with Coillte doing weight / volume measurements in Richardson sawmill in Newtowngore”
Having also developed a strong relationship with Balcas, Tommy purchased a JCB 814 harvester with a Keto 150 head and established Lynch Harvesting Ltd. in November 1998. He spent the first couple of years cleaning up windblow before investing in a forwarder. By 2005, there were four machines in the fleet, two with Coillte and two with Balcas.
Today, the dedicated fleet comprises six machines in total. “I have two sets working long-term with Coillte and one working for Arbor Forestry,” he continues.
Lynch Harvesting’s value to the local community should be measured not just in terms of the service provided but also by taking into account the vital employment offered in such a sparsely-populated county. “If I hadn’t set this business up in Leitrim, then I would have had to emigrate and so too might most of the other lads working for me,” says Tommy.
“So we’re proud of that. As well as myself and Miriam, we have six others on the books. In fact, I’ve actually just taken on my first young lad in a long time, Martin McManus, who is only 21. Martin completed the new Harvest Machine Operators Course at Ballyhaise College, training on their state-of-the-art harvest machine simulator. He was one of the first two people to complete the Level 5 award in forestry forwarder operations.
“Apart from Martin, all the other drivers are with me 15-20 years. They are all family men so we try to stay within 90 minutes of home so that they can all get home to their families in the evening. That approach has helped me keep staff turnover to a minimum and ensures that valued well trained staff aren’t lost to other occupations.”
Tommy runs three Ponsse Scorpion harvesters. “These provide great versatility and visibility in thinning and can also excel in clearfell,” he notes. “They cope effortlessly with different tree sizes. Drivers really like them because of the unobstructed field of vision and high level of comfort and reliability.
“Previous to the Ponsse Scorpion, I ran a fleet of solely John Deere, I spent 15-18 years with them and built the business on them and just wanted a change … to try something different and I haven’t regretted it. I’m very happy with the Scorpions, for their fuel economy and their versatility. You can switch between thinnings and clearfell with them. That flexibility means I’m never shutting myself off from any particular job.
“All the Scorpions are fitted with H6 heads which have proven fast, strong and very reliable. The hydraulic hoses are very well protected against accidental damage, especially when working in densely populated thinning crops.”
Meanwhile, Tommy also has two Gremo 1050 specialised light forwarders weighing in around 12.5 tonnes and boasting a 10.5 tonne transmission with a Cummins 164 hp engine which gives a super power to weight ratio. The John Deere 1010e forwarder is a heavier forwarder in build and weight and is quite at home in clearfell and thinnings.
“We get a lot of rain in the region and conditions can be very challenging, so we have moved from six-wheelers to eight-wheelers. In order to fulfil a Coillte long-term, your machines can’t be over five years old so needless to say our fleet is very fresh. Drivers prefer to cut and extract timber than to fix machines but, if the need arises, there is an excellent mechanic on the team, so the machines are kept firing on all cylinders. Obviously, there will always be slight problems but it’s better for morale when all the machines are going strongly.”
Even though the age profile of private timber in Leitrim is relatively young, as most of it was planted in the late ‘eighties and early ‘nineties, Tommy points out that it has generated a lot of employment throughout the county and neighbouring counties, with a lot of his friends and family working in forestry or forestry-related jobs.
As well as thinning and clearfelling, Lynch Harvesting also purchase timber from private plantation owners. “We buy it standing and pay them by the tonne or by the cubic meter and as the machines volume measurement system is calibrated every week, the customer can be assured that they are paid for what is cut,” says Tommy. Gerry McMorrow and Norman Hall are used for haulage, with timber sold locally to Balcas, Murray Timber, McHugh Timber or McHale to minimise the haulage distances.
“When the recession hit in ’08, we found it tough, but I won a tender for a windfarm job clearing 110 hectares over two cutting seasons,” the proprietor continues. “That was a huge job – we even had to bring in some subcontractors – and it came at the right time. Coillte and the mills had us on production quotas as timber demand fell off, so it was a challenging time. But we got through and things seem to be picking up again.
“But forestry is very resilient. If you have a mature forest, you can sit on it until the price is right if you aren’t under any immediate financial pressure. There’s no expiry date on it, so it’s a great investment.”
Looking to the future, Tommy is confident that the prospects remain good for Lynch Harvesting, a business he hopes to keep in the family name for generations to come: “I’m happy at the size I’m at and I have a loyal, dedicated crew who work well together,” he concludes. “If we were to expand, we would have to spread our wings and from a logistical point of view I find working closer to home easier managed.
“I also think that expansion is difficult as we have a small country with a finite amount of timber and it is harder to find skilled drivers to work these expensive machines; no point having a state-of-the-art machine and nobody to drive it.
“I can’t emphasise enough the importance of well-trained drivers ,without my crew behind me I wouldn’t be as far on today.”
Lynch Harvesting Ltd.,
Tel: 087 2933734
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 1, February/March 2019