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Timber Harvesting and Sales Checklist

Optimising Your Timber Sales

Forests and woodlands are a highly valuable and sustainable resource. Good planning and timely coordination of timber sales adds value to the forest and can also be very rewarding for the owner.

The process involves a number of key steps and significant help is available. As the forest owner gains knowledge and experience, s/he will become familiar and more comfortable with the harvesting and sales elements involved.

A timely and stepwise approach to harvesting and timber sales is the key to success.

Seek Advice and Training

Training, advice and information on the timber harvesting and sale process is invaluable and is also readily available through a range of sources:

  • Forest owners can build their own knowledge base and/or operate as part of a Forest Owner Group
  • Teagasc forestry advisory staff provide independent advice and informative national and local events to help owners through this process.
  • Availing of the services of a forestry consultant is recommended to assist with harvest planning. Note: Applications for all forestry grant-aided activities require the input of a registered forester (List of Registered Foresters, PDF).

Know Your Forest

Sustainable management enhances forest productivity, profitability and environmen- tal benefits. Your forest will need to be assessed for the following:

  • Tree species, forest age, forest area, growth rate and productivity
  • Forest stability (requiring an assessment of factors such as tree height, soil type, drainage conditions and exposure levels)
  • Suitability for harvest / appropriate harvest type / suitable timing of harvest
  • Environmental and archaeological features and protection measures
  • Options regarding timber certification 

In order to achieve this for young forests, inspection paths are essential. As the forest grows/increases in value, appropriate pre-harvest assessment is essential

Prepare for Harvest

Timely preparation is needed for harvesting. Planning for the harvest should com- mence 1-2 years in advance. Make provision in good time for:

  • Health and safety/risk assessment
  • Harvest plan and associated maps, based on a forest survey 
    This plan should state and illustrate the planned harvesting (and, where applicable, reforestation) measures to protect social and environmental features. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s felling and reforestation standards set out universal standards that apply to all felling activity
  • Felling licence application and approval. See Felling of trees - legal requirements
  • Forest road or loading bay requirements. See Construction of forest roads
    Allow time for potential grant application/approval, road construction and settlement 
  • Potential for coordination of adjoining sales between neighbouring forest owners

Manage the Timber Sale 

Prior to marketing timber, become familiar with timber value, how it appreciates through thinning operations and the major potential value in the final harvest.

Become familiar with timber prices and the key factors that influence them including: species, harvest type, tree quality, timber volume for sale, site conditions, proximity to markets, number of bidders, prevailing market conditions.

Timber can be sold in a number of ways including standing sale or harvested sale (roadside sale or delivered sale to sawmill):

  • Ensure a range of timber markets are consulted
  • Work with experienced/reputable timber buyers and contractors (Contact List for Timber Buyers & Contractors)
  • Talk to forest owners who previously harvested
  • Seek a number of references

When negotiating a price for the timber with a forestry consultant/timber buyer, ensure there is:

  • Clarity on all costs involved
  • Clear indication of the net return per hectare 

Have an appropriate timber sales contract in place (e.g. the Irish Timber Growers Association's Timber Sales Agreement). Timber sales contracts should be simple but explicit, fair and allow the forest owner to be in control of the sale.

Monitor the Harvest

The forest owner (or agent) should inspect the harvest operation following commencement and review regularly as it progresses. This is to ensure that all procedures that were pre-agreed are being followed. Professional assistance can be money well spent.

  • Control plots can be used to regulate the practice and intensity of harvest
  • Modern timber harvesters are equipped with a computerised measurement system, regular calibration is essential
  • Computerised printouts will provide indicative information on the number of trees cut and the assortment breakdown over a specified time period
  • Stack measurement is also a simple and useful method to estimate timber volumes on site

Secure Your Timber

Following harvest, it is important to consider the security of your timber. This can be facilitated in a number of ways:

  • Install a suitable (locked) barrier at the entrance to your forest to regulate access
  • Be present on site during timber haulage periods
  • Have an appropriate system in place which will help provide accountability for forest owners in reconciling the removal of all timber loads from the forest
  • The ITGA timber sales dispatch system provides a widely accepted template for managing timber sales in private forests
  • Discrete temporary cameras (along with appropriate signage) may be considered at strategic locations in the forest
  • Ensure prompt collection and removal of timber from the forest as agreed within the sales contract: this will also minimise the risk of drying of timber - particularly important where timber is sold on a weight basis

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