Missouri Timber Price Trends
Oct - Dec 2014
By Jason E. Jensen, CF
Winter months can bring hardships to loggers and sawmill owners who are desperately trying to make a living in harsh winter conditions. It is either wet, cold, muddy, crops are still in the fields that prevent logging, equipment has broken down, or something else has happened. Through my 18 year logging career, I named this "the struggle". It seems loggers are constantly struggling to make a living when at times, all can be against them. Recently, while I was visiting my brother, who owns a sawmill and operates a logging crew, and he was explaining his issues. It had been too wet to log and the forecast was for more rain, he had just experienced a long mechanical break down with his mechanical cutter and the sawmill was out of logs. My mind quickly went to some hard times when I was logging. I remember one winter where our timber sale was approximately 1/2 mile from the state highway. It had been an unusually wet and warm winter and our logging road would not support the weight of our log truck. We had tried to only work when the ground was frozen but payments were due and the family needed groceries to eat. On several occasions we skidded our logs the « mile to literally purchase groceries.
The purpose of this article is to let landowners know often there are reasons why loggers are trying to work when they probably should not. The solution to avoiding these issues is proper planning. However, not always can proper planning avoid the need to work in adverse conditions. If the logger and landowner will save timber to be harvested closest to the road, it may allow the logger to work in marginal weather conditions without rutting up the entrance road. Loggers learn how to properly plan through years of experience. The old saying "make hay while the sun is shining" holds true for loggers as well. An experienced logger will work extra hours when the conditions are right for logging so he won't get into the struggle I explained above. He will also purchase timber that he can harvest in the winter because of its proximity to the hard road.
I suggest that the logger and landowner have a conversation about how to plan the harvest of the timber sale. Think about what time of the year it is and when the timber harvesting will be done. You should consider things like soil condition, stream crossings, cropping plans, hunting plans of the landowner, and log landing locations. Best management practices (BMPs) need to be planned so soil erosion can be prevented. Bottom line is proper planning can avoid the "struggle"(issues) I explained in this article.