Steve Leibering, who runs the logging and chipping operations for Leibering and Sons Inc. in Lamar, Indiana, doesn’t buy that “never say never” advice. He’s happy to declare that “since getting a Barko knuckleboom loader mounted on tracks, we would never go back to having a loader feeding a chipper that wasn’t mobile.”
Leibering purchased the Barko 495 ML Magnum loader through Columbus Equipment Company about 16 months ago. In addition to having the loader mounted on tracks, he had it equipped with a live heel, a Rotobec grapple saw, a ground saw and a ground delimber.
Before getting the Barko, the company used a Cat trailer-mounted loader “that had to be towed, and sometimes towed and pushed,” he said. “It took a large grapple skidder and also a dozer or skid steer to push it if ground conditions were wet. It was a two- to three-man operation instead of the operator being able to move at will. The efficiency and safety the Barko provides is well worth the investment in a track system.”
The Barko is used in both logging and chipping operations, and the tracks provide the flexibility to move it easily to feed the chipper or delimber, no matter the soil conditions.
The Rotobec grapple saw is “the biggest asset on the machine,” Leibering added, because it can be used when breaking down trees to knock out crotches, trim off smaller branches that can’t go in the debarker, or to remove small logs that can be used for pallets before putting the tree in the chipper.
The live heel allows the operator to pick up whole trees more quickly because the boom doesn’t have to be completely raised.
The increased efficiency is hard to quantify, Leibering said, but he finds the Barko does more than save time. “There’s also less fatigue and aggravation. The operator doesn’t have to get out and wallow around in the wet soil conditions.”
An additional benefit is the high-rise tilting cab, which can remain tilted while on the lowboy to keep the load at a legal height for transport.
Leibering worked closely with Columbus Equipment Company Environmental Division sales representative Jesse Garber to specify and order the machine. “Jesse is great to work with, and I have had great experience with the service department,” he said.
Leibering and Sons describes itself as a “complete forest management company from tree planting to timber harvesting.” The company also handles primary and secondary breakdown at its sawmills, producing logs, dry lumber and dimensional hardwood, including flooring. The chipping operation produces clean chips for paper mills and boiler-fuel chips. Everything is locally grown and locally manufactured, eliminating costs for freight and material changing hands, so “we can be pretty cost competitive,” Leibering said.
The company’s name refers to Chris Leibering, who started the company in the late 1950s with his wife Carol. The sons—Phillip, Shawn, Matthew, and Steve—now run the company, and several of them have sons of their own in the business.
The Leibering brothers are true, forest-management professionals. They are passionate about their vocation, including being strong advocates for sustainable forestry. The company helps landowner clients optimize their land’s productivity and diversity. Buying the fuel-efficient Barko 495 is another forward-looking step; these crawler booms are “the wave of the future,” in Garber’s opinion.
It was a good decision, said Steve Leibering. “I would never go back to the old way.”