Marketing your logs is about timing and is a volatile experience. As with all the commodities, volatility is the norm…it’s up…it’s down…it’s good…it’s poor. Well, right now and into the first half of the third quarter is the time to get that thinning and management done on your property and sell.
The lumber market hit a 5-year high in May, prompting higher log prices and renewed interest in all sectors of the lumber industry. While Douglas-fir and cedar have remained stable in the past few years, the prices for Douglas-fir have once again risen into the $530 to $550 per thousand board feet (mbf) range with speciality lengths and larger logs being quoted over the $570/mbf price and higher. All species have improved although ponderosa pine has had the weakest showing and the poorest improvement in prices and opportunities. The improved lumber market, mortgage interest rates remaining low, and a stable housing market are all factors contributing to the increased lumber prices.
How long will it last and how high will prices go? Looking at the past, the market is cyclic and appears to peak every 10 to 15 years. In 1979 we saw a peak, again in 1994, and this year will be recorded as a peak as well. Once the log market begins to rise, it generally lasts 3 to 6 quarters before it changes direction. The 1994 peak began in 1993 and maintained good prices through early 1995. After early 1995, the price softened.
If your timberland could use a thinning or clean-up salvage harvest, the market is right now. Thinning is often the most expensive silvicultural operation, but it can contribute the most to the future health and growth of your forest. Many milling operations are now able to accept small logs (4” to 6”+ tops) for fiber and hew logs (small log milling capabilities) at reasonable prices. So now is a good time to “think twice” about your timber management goals and catch the market!!