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How Long Should I Wait to Cut My Timber?

How Long Should I Wait to Cut My Timber?

Thursday, January 12, 2023

It is widely accepted that one of the best investments you can make is in real estate. Owning property is key to expanding your portfolio and providing for your future. But here in the foothills and piedmont, having your own land is about more than financial security; it’s about tradition, nature, beauty, and family. 

Whether you have land that has been in your family for generations or you have recently found your slice of heaven-on-earth, you know how important it is to keep what you have. Of course, property maintenance, fees, and taxes can add up and make ownership challenging. 

One of the ways to ensure you can help offset the costs of maintaining your property and even potentially profit from it is harvesting timber. Timing is the key to getting the most out of cutting timber. Many assume that the goal is to wait as long as possible before selling your trees, but that may not be the case

In this article, we are helping landowners better understand how long they should wait before cutting timber. 


What Does it Mean to Cut Timber?

Let’s begin by defining what it means to cut or harvest timber. 

Timber harvesting entails a variety of tasks, including planning harvest and reforestation, cutting trees and transporting them to a landing, processing, sorting, loading, and shipping timber. There are several different methods by which landowners can harvest their trees.

A Few Common Methods of Harvesting Timber

  • Clearcutting: Typically used in pine and hardwood forests, clearcutting is a process by which all trees in a given area are removed. 
  • Even-Aged Management: A forest management technique that involves harvesting all trees in an area at once or in numerous cuttings over a short period of time to generate stands that are all the same age or roughly the same age. Shade-intolerant conifers and hardwoods are typically managed using this strategy.
  • High-Grading: A method of harvesting that takes just the largest and most valuable trees from a stand, resulting in substantial profits at the sacrifice of future growth potential.
  • Salvage Cut: To save their economic value, dead or damaged trees are harvested, as are trees in danger of being killed by insects, disease, flooding, or other circumstances.

Clearcutting is the most common method of timber harvesting in our area. When it comes to cutting timber, the size, quality, and timing are everything. 

When to Harvest Timber

Many people assume they should wait as long as possible before cutting trees. They want to wait until their forests are full of giant trees. 

However, while large, healthy trees are ideal when it comes to harvesting timber, size is by no means the only factor. You also need to consider:

  • The quality of your trees
  • The market value of timber at the moment
  • The goals you have for your land
  • The environmental impact of clearcutting for your property and others around you

Patience is indeed required to maximize the value of trees. You do want to wait until they reach the highest product class feasible, such as sawtimber, poles, or veneer. As your forest matures and higher product classes are reached, volume growth rates begin to slow, reducing value growth the next year. 

When your forest reaches this point, its value growth will fall below an acceptable rate. It is at this point that your trees are regarded as financially mature and ready for harvest. Ideally, you want to time your harvest with high market rates for the best return for your trees. That is easier said than done, of course.

“Learning from experience can be very expensive when it comes to timber sales. Years of growth and value are accumulated in a mature timber stand, and the combined annual income from all those years is frequently marketed in a single transaction.”- Dr. Robert Bardon, Associate Dean of Extension, Department Extension Leader & Professor

It is possible to wait too long to cut timber. Your trees may reach a point where their health deteriorates due to lack of nutrients, disease, pest infestations, invasive species, and other environmental factors. Getting help from professional foresters is key to making sure you cut at the best time. 

The Value of Getting Professional Help Before Clearcutting

Learning when and how to harvest your timber takes significant research and years of trial-and-error. Landowners may be able to avoid the trial-and-error aspects of land management by leaning on the experience and expertise of professionals. 

Every land management project is unique. You have goals for your land and property that we want to help you reach. We invest substantial effort to achieve the results you desire. 

With transparency, knowledge, counsel, and direction, we provide tailored forest management solutions for your land. We want you to be well-informed and aware of your options for achieving your forest management goals.

To provide you with the best service possible, we have a team of expert foresters and authorized, trained logging professionals on staff.

We offer the following services:

  • Consultations on Forest Management
  • Purchase of Timber
  • Wood harvesting
  • Plans for Forest Management

Many landowners find that the financial investment in professional forestry management nets much more return on their timber harvest than it costs. We'd be delighted to help you with your forest management. 

Contact Church and Church for more information about how we can help you get the most out of your land and timber.