Harvesting, transporting and marketing Logs
Often farmers discover that their timber plantations or native
forests are unviable to harvest due to the low value of the
trees and the high costs of access, harvesting, loading and
transport. The economics of harvesting dictate that where
the logs are low in value, the operation must be highly mechanised
in order to be viable. The equipment required for mechanized
logging is very expensive and the contractors involved commonly
prefer large forest areas with relatively easy access.
If a farmer has year round access for harvesting
due to good roads and well drained, sandy soils, they may
be able to harvest when contractors are otherwise idle during
the wet season.
Site characteristics that increase logging costs
are slope, dense undergrowth, exposed rocks, distance to made
roads, soil types and creek crossings. Adapted farm equipment,
such as tractors, and manual felling with chainsaws is only
viable where the log value is high.
Research in Australian pine plantations suggests
that manual felling and tractor log skidding will only be
viable in well-spaced, pruned stands of large diameter sawlogs
(over about 40cm). The advantage of pruning is that it greatly
reduces the labour required to de-limb and allows the trees
to be more widely spaced, making felling and access easier.
The point of sale is commonly the mill
door. Transport costs can be as high as 10c/km/tonne, thereby
reducing the payment to the grower by more than $10 per cubic
meter for logs that need to travel over 100km to get to the
mill. For farmers considering planting or harvesting relatively
small areas (less than say 20 hectares) or low volumes (less
than say 2000 cubic meters), careful thought should be given
to value adding on the stump and designing their plantations
for easy access so as to reduce the impact of harvesting costs.
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