Howie post 2

A highlight of PFLA’s 2015 field tour was a visit to Woodlot #85 for a log bucking evaluation demonstration.

Whether you’re a novice forest owner with a small woodlot and little harvesting experience, or a seasoned forester with years of logging practice to guide your decision making it’s worthwhile spending some time to consider how to get the most value out of your timber crop.

Thanks to an informative presentation by Howie Griessel at PFLA’s 2015 field tour, participants have a few tips and insider knowledge to help them think about their own harvest planning.

Of course, nothing is as good as the real thing, but because we wouldn’t want you to miss out, we’ve include some photos, descriptions and information from the tour stop below with a big thanks to Kevin, Dustin and Howie (photo above) for the preparation and presentation.

Preparing the Demonstration

To prepare the demonstration they started with a random deck of harvested full-length stems and laid them out on the ground. Next, they came out with a scaler who does quality control for a local business and randomly picked five potential stems. They numbered the five stems and looked at the different ways a faller could buck them and what the value implications would be for the different choices.

log examples

It wasn’t entirely random. They tried to get at least one transmission pole from each of the categories of poles (based on butt diameter). Transmission poles are typically higher value than other products, like veneer and saw logs, so it’s worth the effort to try to produce them.

Howie explains, “I’ve known for a long time that there’s opportunity to make or loose money depending on what the fallers choices are, but I never really quantified that and so we did our best attempt without biasing it too much.”

In the end, the demonstration worked out well. Howie went back, after the fact, and looked at his numbers from last year, and compared those numbers to the average value for the five stems and concluded the demonstration was pretty much on par for last year’s numbers.

Log Bucking Evaluation Analysis

In their analysis, they looked at the volume and the value of the five different samples as a pole, and then they looked at two different ways of bucking. Howie adds, “Just to be facetious, I made it three different fallers, and of course Dustin was the guy who made all the money.”

Tree #1

tree 1

Howie explains, “Because Dustin knows all about poles, he’s looking for them all the time.” Dustin processed tree #1 into a grade A pole (decided by butt size and length) with a value of $800.

Howie continues, “Rodger is really good at maximizing log value, but he either doesn’t know about poles, or he’s in an area where the pole market is too far for hauling, or his road network won’t let him haul long poles out, so, for whatever reason, Rodger can’t take poles so he bucks this tree into three logs. Rodger’s total for the same tree is $449.”

For the purpose of demonstration, Howie describes Earl as, “Your typical contract faller with 41 foot-itis.”

What Howie means by this is, Earl knows you can’t take shorter logs on a three-axle trailer because you’ll be over safe legal height before you can get a full load so you need long logs. For this reason, the faller has a motivation to buck long because it’s fewer cuts he makes in a day for the same volume at the end of the day. The higher the cubic meter volume per piece, the fewer pieces they have to take to the road in a day to make the same amount of money.

Because of his debilitating “41 foot-itis”, Earl cut two 41-foot logs and a pulp log for a total of $406.

Tree #2

tree 2

Tree #2 is a similar scenario with Dustin, Rodger and Earl making similar decisions to tree #1.

To clarify, Howie explains, “I’m not trying to say you should make everything a pole. Historically, in my stands I get about 20 to 25 percent poles and the rest are logs.”

This means, the other interesting analysis in these examples is to compare the value of the logs Rodger and Earl can make for you.

Howie continues, “A lot of people think about what a faller’s day rate is and it sounds like a lot of money, but the right faller can make you not just his own day rate back, but he can also make you enough money to pay for up to 75% of your total logging costs — including road building.”

Choosing the right faller for the job can make a big difference.

Tree #3 and Tree #4

trees 3 and 4

Both tree #3 and tree #4 contain small poles, but even a small pole can have a significant difference in value.

To be fair, for both tree #3 and tree #4, they assumed Rodger and Earl would buck and get the same value for the trees because you’d have to really exaggerate to make Earl inept enough not to do the same thing as Rodger in these two cases.

So, as far as the fallers go, it comes down to the difference in how they buck three trees.

Tree #5

tree 5

Tree #5 is also a fairly small, mid-category pole (apologies for the bad picture).

Summarizing the results


Okay, now that we have all the numbers for the three different scenarios and five different trees we can summarize the information and draw some conclusions about maximizing poles.

  • Dustin’s total value for the five trees as poles is $1567
  • Rodger’s total value for bucking logs with consideration for quality and export sorts is $977
  • Earl’s total value for bucking logs basically to length is $878.50
  • This works out to an average timber value for maximizing poles of $130.58 vs. $73.20 for trees bucked entirely into logs.

Howie explains, “That’s a difference of $57.38 per cubic meter which is deceiving because you’re not going to get all of your stand in poles. But last year, for instance, 20% of my total volume went to poles which increased the market value of the whole stand by 10% which was over $8 per cubic meter and would have paid for one phase of harvesting, maybe hoe chucking, for example.”

Also, if you look at the difference between the choices Rodger and Earl made bucking logs, there was a difference of $8.21 in the way they bucked just three trees. That difference could potentially pay for another harvesting phase.

Howie’s Concluding Recommendations

Howie concludes, “In my mind, this illustrates how critical the decisions a faller makes are; how you don’t want to be push the faller for volume production. Instead, you want him to take time and make quality decisions. It can pay you a big return in the end.”

For example, in this scenario, Rodger returned 36% more value because of the decisions he made.

Of course, opportunities are stand specific, but if you’ve got large timber Howie recommends a couple of options:

  1. Rather than hiring a contractor based on price per cubic meter, you make a deal with him and pay him a percentage of the gross revenue from the log sales. That way, every time he upgrades a log and increases its value you both benefit.
  1. If you don’t want to go that route, the other suggestion is to put your patch of timber up for bid like a timber sale. Select a group of contractors—do your research, find people who are knowledgeable in the industry—bring them in and have them bid on the job. That way, they’ll upgrade the timber as much as possible to make a dollar, as opposed to having everything strictly production oriented. You’ll also know what your return will be before logging even starts.

Thanks again to Howie, Dustin and Kevin for the informative presentation. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.