Value of a man­aged for­est farm


GOOD man­age­ment is the key to get­ting the best re­turns from farm crops.

Trees can be a com­ple­men­tary and valu­able crop on the farm that will de­liver if well planned and man­aged.

Michael Owens is a pro­gres­sive farmer from north Kilkenny. Michael runs a spring calv­ing dairy herd along with some beef cat­tle in County Kilkenny, milk­ing 125 cows on a hold­ing of al­most 80 hectares.

Hav­ing trained in forestry, Michael’s late fa­ther planted a small sec­tion of his farm 29 years ago con­sist­ing of 2.5 hectares of mainly spruce.

While forestry is cer­tainly not the main farm en­ter­prise, Michael has re­cently reaped the re­wards of his late fa­ther’s de­ci­sion, hav­ing over­seen the man­age­ment of his for­est over the years. It has ma­tured rapidly fol­low­ing two thin­nings, in 2010 and 2014. Michael har­vested his farm for­est crop in Oc­to­ber 2018.

Ac­cord­ing to Michael: “We are very happy with the way the har­vest­ing worked out.

“The whole job was done in three days; it has pro­duced over 750 tonnes, and the price we will re­ceive is about €55 per tonne, per­haps even more... It will cost over 10 per cent of the money we re­ceive to re­plant; the re­main­der is tax-free any­way.”

Tim­ber prices can vary over time and ac­cord­ing to a range of fac­tors such as tree qual­ity, for­est type, wood-lot size and ac­cess. Man­aged forests are ex­empt from in­come tax but sub­ject to rel­e­vant USC and PRSI charges.

With good man­age­ment, for­est own­ers can have a very valu­able ad­di­tional crop on their land. Michael was im­pressed with the tim­ber and fi­nan­cial re­turn from his for­est, ex­plain­ing that “It yielded pretty well, it was fairly straight and the prod­uct break­down is 45 per cent sawlog, 37 per cent pal­let wood, and the re­main­der is go­ing to pulp. So that’s pretty de­cent for forestry.”

Michael is also very aware of the need for pro­tec­tion and en­hance­ment of his farm en­vi­ron­ment.

“Num­ber one, the weather was su­per, the ground was bone dry, there wasn’t a mark on the ground, but the brash was piled up in rows along the site and the for­warder (col­lect­ing the tim­ber) trav­elled along th­ese,” he says.

“Ba­si­cally, it doesn’t touch the ground and didn’t im­pact with the soil in any way.”

The ex­ist­ing broad-leaf trees in the for­est were also re­tained, and Michael will re­plant a fur­ther 10 per cent through the site for en­vi­ron­men­tal and aes­thetic rea­sons.”

Michael can now make plans for his forestry re­turns. He is aware that “When you are farm­ing, you have a lot of op­tions for what you are go­ing to do with money”. Michael’s fam­ily is top of his pri­or­ity list and he is also keen to in­vest in their fu­ture:

“I have four small chil­dren and hope­fully they might go to col­lege,” he says.

Many farm­ers like Michael could con­sider an­other crop on the farm with­out sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on cur­rent en­ter­prises. Through whole-farm plan­ning, forests can fit into ex­ist­ing farms and pro­vide op­tions on ap­pro­pri­ate land parcels.

In this way, forestry pre­mi­ums com­bined with re­tained ba­sic pay­ments and in­come taxfree tim­ber re­turns can pro­vide ad­di­tional in­come streams on the farm.

For a younger farmer, forestry may be an ideal way to help pay off that mort­gage on a new fam­ily home or help in re­la­tion to nec­es­sary farm in­vest­ments. And for older farm­ers, a for­est makes for an ideal pen­sion pot.

Michael is look­ing for­ward to get­ting his for­est planted again and see­ing the next for­est es­tab­lish and rapidly grow: “Hope­fully when I am about 70 I will get some re­tire­ment money out of it,” he says. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, con­tact this writer at (087) 224 2283 or

John Casey

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