By Lauren Grand, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Lane County
For those of you who may have sold logs or timber the past year, must be smiling all the way to the bank. Actually, the past couple years have been awfully good with Douglas-fir prices as good as they’ve been in a long time. As a matter of fact, this is the first year that a lot of people can remember that prices continued to rise through the summer. It is still a great market if you are selling trees!
The 2017 winter Douglas-fir values are staying strong. Many Log buyers are seeking logs with the 8-15” scaling end diameter and are paying $900 per thousand and up. However, if you have a healthy number of good quality 2mil you could claim prices in the mid $900s. Domestic Douglas-fir is claiming all the attention these days at almost $200 dollars higher than they were last year this time and exports just can’t keep up particularly if there is a long haul. Exports become more competitive within 50 miles of the docks.
Historically, log prices peak in the spring before falling in the summer, but in the graph above you can see the last few years have been a bit out of the ordinary. That being said, anyone fortunate enough to be able to log during the wet season should keep one thought in mind: no one can take a profit away from you. There are two kinds of people, those that wait around for higher prices, hoping to squeeze every dime out of their trees. And, those who see a good price, act on it, and walk away a winner. It is far better to leave a few dollars “on the table” than for avarice to creep into the decision making process, thus risking far more in lower prices than what would have been lost by acting too soon.
If you have been thinking of winterizing your roads by adding rock. The additional cost of preparing roads for the rainy season is much easier to absorb when markets are up. Especially if you have a good amount of timber to sell. If you don’t have “winter ground”, now would be a great time to plan a harvest and book a logger for later in the year. Loggers and truckers are in high demand these days and you never know how long these prices will last.
While logs are looking good, chips are holding steady at $40/ton. Chips tend to claim a higher price in the winter, but you need a large amount to make up for the cost of the equipment. For small landowners chipping material rarely has much monetary incentive, but can be an option if you are doing a large stand improvement project. Today, with prices so good, it’s time to make “chips,” but only the chips generated from your chainsaw when bucking those sawlogs going to the mill. Don’t forget some fiber mills are actively looking for hardwood chips and they are competitively priced with conifer chips.
Speaking of hardwoods, alder, maple, and ash are actively being sought after by hardwood mills. At the time of this report alder is priced nicely at $625-$675 per thousand, but hardly competes with fir prices these days. While maple and ash don’t bring in as much as alder, their prices have remained consistent.
The pole market demand remains high and pole buyers are fiercely perusing buying poles. The pole market tends to rise and fall with the Douglas-fir sawlog market, but consistently claims a higher price than sawlogs. Good news: poles remain in good demand at good prices. Bad news: most of us do not have that type of material, but buyers are willing to take a look, so give them a call if you think you have poles.
Whitewoods are also in demand. While their values are significantly lower than their Df counterparts they are also up and offering a nice chunk of change. High quality 6-11” logs are averaging in the mid -$700’s. Quite a bit higher than last quarter. However, the larger diameter hemlock/spruce/grand fir is in less demand than the 6-11 inch logs and are running a little under $600.
Incense cedar prices remain steady in $700 range for long logs. Douglas County is the final destination for much of the incense in the area. Sellers can also opt for a sort yard in the mid part of the valley. The decision then becomes pretty site specific, with trucking being the deciding factor. You cannot say that for redcedar. Mills south of here are buying redcedar, but values are less and trucking is nearly as much as if you were hauling to northern destinations. The further north you go, the better the prices. Sort yards here in the Valley are paying around $1300/MBF for long logs. That is slightly lower than the beginning of the year, but all in all an amazing price.
Occasionally, folks request valley pine prices. While Ponderosa pine isn’t known for bringing in the big bucks it is making a rise and teetering between $550 and $600. That’s up about $150 from the August 2017 report. This is especially good news now that you don’t have to truck pine to Roseburg or Medford to sell it anymore. There are now two pine buyers in Lane County. Depending on where you are, you might actually make a few bucks.
Logs aren’t the only thing from your woods you may be interested in selling. There are some non-timber forest product buyers around and they have a few products that they are looking for. Oregon grape stems and roots are being purchased for 70 cents/lb. Usnea lichen is claiming $5.50/lb, but make sure you know how to identify it because there are some look –a-likes out there. Pipsissewa, or commonly called prince’s pine is going for 80 cents/lb. Cascara bark will be in demand once the sap starts running, typically in April. Cascara bark runs $1.20/lb dry and 40 cents/lb green.
Prices and trends for this winter are higher than they have been in over 15 years and log buyers are in aww that prices didn’t dip in the summer and fall of 2017. The good news is good prices makes everyone happy and a little money too. However, only time will tell how long the big bucks will last. As I look into my no-so-crystal ball, I expect prices will stay strong for at least the immediate future, but the market will have to reset at some point. For the vast majority of readers, things are on-hold, waiting for this year’s dry weather before any harvesting takes place. If you have the right ground for logging in the winter, don’t sit on a good thing if harvesting fits into your management plans. Considering a harvest? Find an available operator and trucker then act while you can, we cannot guarantee how long it will last. Good luck and always remember to get your purchase order before you cut!