News item | 2014-06-27 | 10:48 AM

Horsepower for the benefit of environment and landowners

Three pure horsepower is enough to extract timber during the forestry work carried out by Vattenfall Eldistribution in Älvsbyn outside Luleå in Sweden.

It's not for reasons of nostalgia that forestry horses Lydia, Wallman and Vilmer were hired for the job. Where modern machines can sink into and cause great damage to the ground, horses can extract timber without a trace. A horse and cart only leave some flattened grass behind them. This benefits both nature and landowners.

"The ground here is so soft and sensitive in places that the ATVs with trailers that we normally use would cause too much damage," says Roger Lindmark, Vattenfall Luleå.

Ancient technique

The term bio-power takes on an entirely new meaning when horse logger Lars-Olof Lundgren leads his cart drawn by three horses through the forest. The technique is ancient, but his tools are modern. With a five-metre long, electrically-powered hydraulic grapple arm he lifts the timber quickly on board the cart while the horses wait patiently.

It is rather unusual for Vattenfall to use a horse and cart. In the modern day it has only happened on rare occasions when thinning individual trees.

"We try to adapt our methods to the circumstances whenever possible. In this case, we considered extracting the timber in the winter using snow scooters and sledges, but decided that horses would be gentler on the ground. This now gives us the opportunity to test the pros and cons of using a horse and cart."

Miles ahead

The horse team can carry five tonnes in each load which is more than ATVs can pull, and in terms of noise the horses are miles ahead. All the nearby village can hear is the sound of horses' hooves instead of noisy engines.

Along all the power line corridors that are almost 100 kilometres long, horses will be used in four to five sensitive areas of land where machines cannot be used. The horses and cart are moved between the work sites using a specially constructed horse trailer.

Facts:

Swedish forestry stopped using horses at the start of the 1960s.

Today there are between 400 to 500 horses used for forestry work.

Lars-Olof Lundgren from Blåsmark outside Piteå uses North Swedish draught horses which are alert, versatile and strong with a steady temperament.