Plan your Timber Sale
You need to decide how you will sell your timber. Being well informed about timber markets, knowing the various participants and understanding how best to interact with them will help you to successfully navigate the timber sales process and protect your interests along the way.
Key questions include: "What can I do to ensure a quality harvesting operation, a good price for my timber and a prompt payment?"
What timber products will be harvested from my forest?
Timber is divided into categories or assortments based on the diameter and length of the logs cut during harvesting. The quantity (and price) of each category depends on the size, age and quality of the trees being harvested. Generally, there is a higher proportion of smaller, lower value assortments harvested from younger trees at first thinning stage. As your trees grow and mature, larger value assortments develop.
Trees removed during first thinning generally fall into the pulp category. Pulp wood is used for panel boards and wood energy. It also is cut from the top section of larger diameter trees. Poor quality large trees also fall into this category. It has a minimum small end diameter of 7cm. It usually has a lower value than the other larger assortments. Better quality small dimension trees can be cut as stakewood.
Logs in this category have a minimum small end diameter of 14cm and a top end diameter of 20cm. It is used to manufacture products such as packaging, pallets, garden furniture and fencing and usually has a mid-range value compared with other assortments.
This is cut from the lower section of the tree and has a minimum small end diameter of 18 or 20cm. It is used to produce sawn timber for the construction industry and is the most valuable assortment. In general, your first and second thinnings will not include trees large enough to fall into this category.
Well executed thinning operations during the development of your forest will really help to maximise the percentage of higher value sawlog assortments in your later harvests.
Who will buy my timber?
Timber buyers (Contact List for Timber Buyers and Contractors, PDF) have representatives to source timber and to ensure they get a good deal. Therefore, it is advisable to consider engaging an independent Registered Forester to act fully on your behalf when planning and executing your timber sale. Your forester will ensure that your timber sales process is properly planned with your best interests in mind. They will also assist with all the technical, regulatory and logistical aspects of a timber harvesting operation.
The main options for timber sales are:
- Selling directly to a sawmill:
Sawmills typically have a forester or operations manager working for them who will engage with you (or your forester) to agree a sale price, associated contract and execute the required timber harvesting and haulage operations. Depending on how you choose to sell your timber, the sawmill may be responsible for the harvesting operations or may simply collect harvested assortments from your forest.
- Selling to a timber harvesting contractor:
A harvesting contractor will agree to buy your standing timber from you, harvest it and then sell it on to a sawmill or other timber processors.
- Selling to a forestry company, forester or timber trader:
In this case, a company or individual agrees to buy your timber from you, arrange for a harvesting contractor to harvest it and then sell it on to a sawmill or other timber processors.
How do I sell my timber?
Timber can be sold in a number of ways, depending on who you are planning to sell to and how involved you or your forester intends to be in the sales and harvesting processes.
- Standing Sale:
This is when timber is sold as it stands in the forest at an agreed unit price (€ per tonne or € per cubic metre) in advance of harvesting. The buyer is then responsible for all costs associated with harvesting and haulage operations.
- If your forest is being thinned, your agreed sale price will reflect the size of trees that should be removed during the thinning.
- If your forest is being clearfelled, your agreed sale price will reflect the size and quality of all of the trees in your final crop.
- Harvested Roadside Sale:
This is when timber is sold from harvested assortments stacked at your forest roadside, at an agreed unit price (€ per tonne or € per cubic metre). A harvesting contractor is contracted and paid to harvest your timber and present it at roadside for your timber buyer. The buyer is then responsible for costs associated with haulage operations.
- Harvested Mill Gate Sale:
In this case, harvested assortments are delivered to an agreed processing location, at an agreed unit price (€ per tonne or € per cubic metre). The seller will contract and pay a harvesting contractor to harvest the timber and a haulage contractor to deliver it to the buyer.
While the sale of timber is income-tax free, it is important to seek professional advice in relation to other tax implications (e.g. VAT) associated with your planned sale method. For further details, see:
By opting for a harvested sale, you will have more control of your forest harvesting operation, something that is particularly beneficial for thinning operations where the focus should be on improving the quality of your remaining crop. However, there is a risk associated with taking on the responsibility of producing agreed assortments.
Depending on your control of operations, you may be responsible for a number of roles, e.g. Landowner and / or Forestry Works Manager. If the land owner is carrying out the work themselves then all of the requirements of the Health and Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005 rest with them. For these reasons, private forestry timber is often sold as Standing Sales. For further details, see:
How will my harvested timber be measured?
As part of planning your timber sale, it is important that you understand how your harvested timber will be measured in order to calculate how much you are to be paid. Your timber sale can be planned and agreed in units of volume (cubic metres) or weight (tonnes).
Currently, timber from private forests is most commonly sold by weight, where the timber trucks are weighed at a sawmill or pulpmill weighbridge and the weight of the timber calculated. Timber density can vary considerably and harvested timber can dry out over time. It is important that you understand how to minimise the impact of weight loss by timber drying before it is weighed and paid for.
Your timber sale contract should include specific incentives and penalties to avoid a long-drawn-out harvesting process.
Before embarking on your first timber sale, it is worth engaging with other forest owners (A Guide to Forest Owner Groups in Ireland, PDF) who have already begun the process of harvesting and selling their timber.
Once you have considered how you might sell your timber, it is advisable to engage the services of a Registered Forester to help with the following tasks:
- process all necessary documentation to secure a Felling Licence
- plan forest roading operations and associated grant claims (if you require one)
- carry out an inventory of your trees to estimate timber volumes and associated values ahead of your sale
- source suitable harvesting contractors if you opt for a Harvested Sale
- advertise your sale to prospective purchasers and secure competitive prices from reputable timber buyers
- prepare a harvesting plan specific to your forest area being harvested - a replanting plan is also required if clearfelling
- prepare a timber sales contract