McKelvey Harvesting are clearfelling experts

7 Jul , 2020  

Employing 24 staff and running 15 forwarders and harvesters, McKelvey Harvesting Ltd is the largest timber harvesting company in the North-West. Managing director Seamus McKelvey explains more about his busy operation.

The Ballybofey, Co. Donegal-based company specialises in clearfelling which is the harvesting of all marketable trees at the end of a forest rotation, generally between ages 30 and 50 in conifer forests and later for broadleaves. It is also practiced to encourage the growth and proliferation of tree species that require high light intensity.

“We generally carry out clearfelling anywhere within a two-and-a-half-hour drive of Ballybofey. But we will travel further if the need arises. One of the sites we’re currently working on is in Forkhill, Co. Armagh, which gives you an idea of the size of the area we cover,” Seamus says.

“Clearfelling is very specialised work which requires specialised equipment. There’s a big demand for timber at the moment and 2020 also looks promising. But we take each day as it comes.”

Seamus set up McKelvey Harvesting Ltd in 2001 and is joined in the business by his brothers Paul, who is also a director, and Kieran. The brothers learned everything they know about timber harvesting from their father Patrick, who has worked in the business all his life.

McKelvey Harvesting’s two main customers are Coillte and Balcas Timber. The state-owned Coillte manages 7% of Ireland’s land, with its forests and land extending to over 440,000 hectares. Over the last 30 years, Coillte has cared for and developed its estate and businesses while being firmly focused on maximising the financial and social potential of these natural resources in a sustainable way.

Coillte operates three businesses – forestry, which is its core business, land solutions and a wood panel manufacturing business called ‘Medite Smartply’. Forestry in Ireland has a history which stretches back almost 100 years, but its development has accelerated since Coillte was established in 1989 when the company left the Civil Service and became a commercial semi-state.

Today, the forestry sector employs 12,000 people and contributes €2.3 billion to the Irish economy annually. The industry has the potential to double in size over the next 10 years and Coillte will play a key role in delivering this growth.

Balcas Timber operates one of Ireland’s largest sawmills in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. A leading timber products supplier, the company has pioneered biomass renewable energy in Ireland and the UK. The business has grown organically and through acquisition and investment in the latest processing technologies. Balcas’ timber products’ portfolio includes construction timber, fencing and landscaping products and pallet and packaging material. The company has led the development of the market for wood pellet fuel in Ireland and Britain.

“Coillte and Balcas are our biggest customers by far. We cut roughly the same amount of timber for both. We leave sawlog and pulpwood at the roadside for collection and it could be sold to any sawmill in Ireland after that. We also cut for A Diamond & Son (Timber) Ltd in Coleraine and have supplied timber to ECC, who make a range of construction, fencing and pallet products,” Seamus continues.

McKelvey Harvesting Ltd invests heavily in its plant, and last year took delivery of two new pieces of machinery from McHale Plant Sales in Birdhill, Co. Tipperary. These were a Komatsu 855 forwarder and a Komatsu 951 harvester. The 855 is an all-round forwarder, suitable for both thinning and clearfelling. It is powerful yet compact and offers long-term productivity in all situations.

The 855’s powerful Stage 4 / Final engine with SCR technology can handle heavy loads and low engine speeds. Based on well-proven common rail technology with high fuel injection pressure and injection control that is both rapid and more precise, it delivers high engine power, high torque, lower emissions and low fuel consumption. Add to this the fact that the engine has optimised combustion chambers and the result is an engine with maximised combustion efficiency when power is most needed.

The 951 is Komastu’s largest and most powerful harvester. With its high productivity and operator comfort, it is especially suitable for clearfelling. The 951 is a colossus in terms of eco-friendliness with the new Stage 4 / Final engine. It fulfils the most stringent requirements on minimised emissions of environmentally hazardous particles and nitrogen oxides.

What’s more the hypermodern engine technology improves fuel economy and considerably reduces noise thanks to its intelligent variable fan control – without compromising engine power.

The 951’s enormous work capacity is down to the new and unique three-pump hydraulics, split into dual circuits with separate pressure levels. The system is power-regulated against the diesel engine and delivers the market’s leading hydraulic capacity at 763 l/min. Unique pressure and flow optimisation enables you to work faster without losing power on certain functions. You can use several crane and head functions simultaneously, such as slew, feed and manoeuvre the machine, with maximum hydraulic power and optimally low fuel consumption.

Of the 14 machines run by Seamus, 14 are Komastu, with eight of these being forwarders and six being harvesters. The forwarders are 860.4 x 4, 855 x 2, 890.3 x 1 and 860.3 x 1, while the harvesters are 951 x 3, 941.1 x 3 and a John Deere 1470.

“We have put a replacement programme in place which allows us to give the possible service. Our machines range in years from ’07 to ’19. Our policy is to keep them as fresh as possible.”

The affable Donegal man concludes by thanking his staff for their skill, dedication and hard work as well as his customers for their continued support.

McKelvey Harvesting Ltd
Co. Donegal.
Mobile: 086 2537031
Email: [email protected]

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 1, February/March 2020