Skidder Types and Operation in Forestry and Logging

Posted 12 June, 2023

Over the past few years, the logging and forestry industry has transformed and significantly evolved! This is why forestry equipment has also developed and changed. In today’s article, we will be talking about one such forestry equipment that has been in use and 

also has transformed in many ways; Skidders.

  • What do skidders do?
  • Why is it called a skidder?
  • What are the kinds of skidders?
    • Cable skidder.
      • How does a cable skidder work?
    • Grapple skidder.
      • How does a grapple skidder work?
  • Advantages of Skidder
  • How much does a skidder weigh?
  • How much does the skidder cost?
  • Operational consideration of Skidders
    • Physical Limitations
    • Soil Conditions
    • Extraction Distance
    • Tree Size

What do skidders do?

A skidder is used for pulling cut trees from the forests. In forestry operations, the process of transporting cut trees from the cutting site to a landing area is known as “skidding.” In order to transport the cut trees, they are loaded on loaders or trucks and then sent to the mill.

Why is it called a skidder?

In the past, the tree logs were pulled by skidders, and the skidders were drawn with the help of horses. While the logs were carried away, they would skid with the ground, so the name skidder came into being. Now the skidders are very efficient, sophisticated and heavy-duty with innovations in technology! Every cable skidder now comes with heavy-duty tires or tracks that help them to skid away more trees in less time! 

What are the kinds of skidders?

Nowadays, skidders are available with either a grapple or a cable drum and sometimes both. So we can divide skidders into two types:

  • Cable skidders
  • Grapple skidders

What is a Cable skidder?

cable skidder

A cable skidder is the type of skidder in which cables are used to wrap around the logs in order to move the tree logs using the hands. This is the reason that cable skidders require one more operator. This operator remains outside the skidder and wraps the cables. In case the logs that are to be relocated are situated in a place that is difficult to access, then instead of grapple skidder, cable skidder would be an easier choice. Buying a new cable skidder might cost you a fortune. This is the reason that many foresters opt for buying a used cable skidder that is up for sale by numerous merchandisers. 

How does a cable skidder work?

Cable skidders are less popular, yet they work in a more efficient way. In order to move cut logs, the cables of the skidders are reeled out and linked to the log. After that, in order to pull the load towards the skidder, a winch is used. This winch holds the logs, and the skidder moves or skids them away to the landing area! 

What is a Grapple skidder?

Grapple skidder

Most foresters prefer using a grapple skidder because it does not require a second operator. Rather this type of skidder uses a tongs-like grappling system. In this, the grapples are linked to a boom that helps in lifting and moving the logs. By using grapple, the logs can be moved in a different direction in a very short time, and this is why this method is considered versatile and quick! 

How does a grapple skidder work?

The working mechanics of grapple skidders is very easy. In this sort of skidder, a grapple is linked to it with the help of an arch or boom. The arch or the boom help in lifting and positioning the attached grapple so that it can carry a big log or even more of them! 

Advantages of Skidder

The grapple or the cable skidders both are good for selective thinning. They are more useful when it comes to taking out a few trees and leaving the others behind. The skidder is one of the logging equipment that can pull out logs from the forest without harming other trees of the forest. This is the reason that they are known to be the most versatile tool of forestry

Further, both types of skidder provide safeguards to save the operators from any sort of mishap or injury. In order to protect the operator, they are encased in a steel cage. These steel cages save them from falling limbs and debris. Additionally, it is necessary for the operators in and around the skidders to use safety heads and eyewear. 

How much does a skidder weigh?

There are different types and sizes of skidders, and that is why the weight of a skidder varies. But the weight of an average cable skidder ranges from 19000 kg to 20000 kg! 

How much does the skidder cost?

The cost of the cable skidder varies depending upon the brand and size of the skidder that you might want. New forestry skidders are expensive, whereas if you are looking for used skidder equipment, you might get a cheaper deal!


Make Model  Price
CAT 525 S/A $23,500
John Deere 648L-II $119,000
Timberjack 560 $59,500
John Deere 648GIII $61,500
Franklin C7F $29,500
Timberjack 450C $33,900
John Deere 748GIII $56,500
John Deere 540D $30,000
Tree Farmer C4D $10,500
Timberjack 460D $39,500
CAT 525 $42,000


Operational consideration of Skidders

Here are the operational conditions of the skidders that should be thought of! 

Physical Limitations

The physical limitation depends on the slope on which the skidder can operate. The slope is influenced by the three factors, including Safety, Gradeability, Soil disturbance and erosion! In easier words, the safety of the skidder decreases on the steep and broken slopes. In order to extract woods on steep slopes, one should use a cable skidder! 

Soil Conditions

In order to operate in wet soils, skidders nowadays come fitted with dual tires or high flotation tires. If you are operating in wet areas or in the area where the soil is loose, you should use a cable skidder. This is because the cables can pull the logs, and the skidder itself can stay on the firm ground. 

Extraction Distance

For a shorter extraction distance, a tracked skidder is suitable, whereas, for a more extraction distance, a forester should opt for a piece of wheeled skidder equipment. In addition, if the distance is greater, then instead of a cable skidder, a grapple skidder with large grapples should be utilized. A skidder with larger grapples will allow to extract and move larger payloads per turn, minimizing the traveling time! 

Tree Size

Another operational factor that should be considered is the size of the trees. In order to choose the skidder, the power and the size of the grapple should be matched with the size of the tree that needs to be extracted! A cable skidder with high traction and pulling force should be utilized for skidding larger trees! 

Skidders are one of the most important pieces of logging equipment that are used by foresters. It is the perfect machinery that is used for pulling and skidding cut trees from the forest. It also provides protection to the operator as well as causes less damage to the trees.

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