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Shelterbelt Business Growing
As shelterbelts age across the Great Plains, a new business opportunity is growing. Dead and dying trees, larger field equipment, and conservation tillage are all reasons farmers are ripping out shelterbelts. However, removal can be dangerous, even with heavy equipment. How farmers remove them also can affect how easy it is to farm where they used to be, warns Clyde Reilly of Shelterbelt Solutions.
“Guys go out with bulldozers and backhoes and start knocking down trees, and pretty soon they have a tree falling on the cab,” he says. “Most bulldozer cabs aren’t any stouter than a skid steer cab. Tree removal with a skid steer is the safest way I know.”
Reilly prefers skid steers, in part because of their size and power. Unlike larger equipment, they can’t take a tree down quickly. The biggest reason he sticks with skid steers is their maneuverability in close quarters.
“We have an extractor attachment that I designed for our skid steers,” says Reilly. “It lets me do selective removal of a single large tree or an entire shelterbelt. It takes more time, so we are more expensive than heavy equipment operators, but when we finish, there are no sticks to pick up and no dirt in the burn pile.”
He says farmers can expect a return on investment in three to five years on shelterbelt removal. A half-mile shelterbelt takes up two acres of cropland.
While Reilly also does shelterbelt renovation, he says that often is not an option. “We will go into a shelterbelt and find that 90 percent of the trees in a row are dead,” he says. “Sometimes an inside row next to buildings needs to be removed. With our skid steer, we can get to the work without damaging remaining trees.”
Reilly and his crew work mostly in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. Pricing varies by the job and the price of fuel. He says there is more work to be done than he has time to do.
“If there are people out there who want to do this type of work, I would be more than happy to set them up with what I know,” he says. “Everyday is fun. We travel around the state in a camper and have a different picture out the window every day.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Shelterbelt Solutions, 513 5th St., Crystal, N. Dak. 58222 (ph 701 202-5000; shelterbelts@gmail.com; www.shelterbeltsolutions.com).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #6