Coillte's 10 Thinning Tips
Below is a list of ten thinning tips that are necessary to know before carrying out any successful thinning operation:
1. Is your plantation suitable for thinning? Some crops should not be thinned for different reasons. If your plantation is twelve years old it maybe due a first thinning. Do not put this decision on the long finger as there is often only a 3 year window where a first thinning can take place on good Sitka spruce sites. A delayed thinning can result in your crop becoming unstable. Get professional advice when your crop is approaching 12 years of age.
2. Inspection paths enable your forestry advisor to assess your crop and provides access for potential customers. Ensure that your inspections paths allow adequate access to your plantation.
3. You need to establish how well your crop is performing to enable you to put a management plan in place. This management plan is also required as part of the felling licence application process. So if your crop is suitable for thinning, it is important that you develop a management plan for your crop and apply for a General Felling Licence.
4. Do you have adequate access to stack and load your timber? You cannot load or stack timber on the side of a county road. If your site requires a loading bay and a forest road, there are grants available from the Forest Service to help you finance this infrastructure. A well constructed forest road will service your forest for all your thinning operations and your clearfell. Our advice is to employ a reputable engineer with experience in building forest roads and to compete the job to the required standard.
5. Crops can be damaged by contractors using unsuitable heavy harvesting machines. My advice is only employ harvesting operators that have i) suitable thinning machinery for the operation and ii) operators that are skilled in selectively thinning your crop.
6. It is imperative that your crop is not over thinned. This practice will have serious repercussions for subsequent thinnings clearfell and ultimately your bottom line. My advice is to be sure your harvesting operator does not remove the larger trees during a first thinning in order to offer you the owner a higher price per cubic meter.
7. Your operator must adhere to the Health and Safety regulations relating to forestry and should have insurance cover to indemnify you in the event of an accident. Make sure that you and your contractor are fully covered in the event of an accident taking place on your site.
8. Harvesting operations are expensive. A typical first thinning can cost in excess of €1,250 per hectare to harvest and extract the timber to roadside. An average first thinning site will contain pulp, stake and pallet. Ensure you have a market for each product before the harvesting operation commences.
9. It is vital that you get paid for all your timber and that it is not left for long periods to dry out (reduces in weight). Where timber is sold on a weight only basis, it is in your interest to have it removed as soon as possible after harvesting. My advice is that you agree a final removal date for all timber with your customer and that where possible all timber is paid for using a weight volume factor.
10. Following the thinning operation inspect your plantation. Post thinning ensure that all blocked drains are cleaned and that your site is secured to prevent trespass.