Wet Season Timber Sales – Using Inclement Weather to Your Advantage

posted in: Economics, Timber Sales | 0

For many landowners, the cool, damp months can be the best time to sell timber. Historically, the weather patterns in the Carolinas create relatively wet ground conditions from November through May. During this period, many tracts are inaccessible, and timber mill inventories tend to decline. This reduction in supply creates a temporary increase in demand and price for accessible timber. Savvy landowners can take advantage of the inclement weather and dramatically increase the price they get for their timber.

Timber sale market timing
Mills will pay more when their inventories are low.

What is a wet-weather timber tract?

Wet-weather timber tracts are those that can be accessed and harvested during wet to moderately wet conditions without excessive costs (rock, bulldozer work, downtime) or damage to the land. The characteristics that define suitability are:

  • Proximity to a state-maintained road
  • Soils that are stable and will support equipment when wet (red clay and sand are examples)
  • Moderate topography
  • Good drainage

Selling timber for a wet-weather harvest doesn’t mean that the logger will be working in a downpour, but it does assume that the crew will experience minimal downtime and the mill(s) can be confident that inventory will be available when they need it most. Your timber sales contract should restrict the buyer from logging when ground moisture is excessive.

Here in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, it is rare to find a tract where every acre is suitable for a wet-weather timber harvest. More likely, you’ll have portions that are well-suited, others that aren’t. If a substantial number of acres are harvestable in wet-weather, you should market the tract as a wet-weather sale, but the contract cutting length should allow the buyer time to come back to complete unsuitable areas when conditions are drier.

Other Advantages of Cool Season Timber Sales

One big advantage of marketing timber in the late fall/winter/early spring months is visibility. In the summer months, it can be tough to see the whole merchantable portion of a tree due to thick understory and leaves on lower branches. Under these conditions, a timber cruiser is prone to underestimating the volume, resulting in a lower bid price.

Another advantage is temperature. Cruising a tract of timber when it is 90+ degrees can be a daunting task. The understory is dense (increasing the time and cost of the inventory), insects and ticks are thick, and the heat and humidity take a physical toll. Generally speaking, tracts sold in months when the temperature is comfortable get more bids and better prices.

Even timber only suited for dry, summer logging is best sold in the pleasant spring months due to these factors.

Identifying ideal sale and harvest timing, coupled with well-thought out marketing, can result in a substantial increase in the price you receive for your timber. I can look at your timber, soils, and topography and help you determine when and how to sell. Contact me for a free initial consultation.

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Tim is a forester, real estate agent, and avid outdoorsman. When he is not managing clients’ woodland, you will find him hiking, trail running, reading, or woodworking. Motto: “Never get too comfortable–there is always room for improvement.”