- July 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm #68456Scott GParticipant
Afternoon fellow stumpjumpers,
Slow on the uptake for this one, needed to contemplate a bit more on the response to avoid just rehashing what has been said several times before. The original point of the thread being research re: draft animals as viable harvesting system.
I have spent a lot of time searching for time/motion studies. Anything that has been done was done many years ago with the exception of some work out of Auburn. Art Shannon from Ontario did a study with FERIC where his horse/forwarder mixed-system out performed a cable skidder operation. I’ll try to get a hold of him again and see if I can’t track down that paper.
For now, I went through my files and pulled up the articles that I thought were most relevant to the direction this thread was going and posted them in a folder located at:
Trying to condense a meaningful follow-up in my head without it turning into a thesis and its just not working…
So… I’ll just end with a ‘Carl-ism’ – “It’s about working horses in the woods”July 28, 2011 at 9:46 am #68478john plowdenParticipant
Thanks for posting this Scott –July 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm #68563Ethan TapperParticipant
It is interesting to see all the ways that people, in research and thought, have tried to quantify the effect that a method of skidding has on the forest. The bottom line is healthy forest systems, but what that means and how to measure it seems to be pretty tricky. For me it is becoming more and more about just doing what feels right, given what I know about forests and everything in them. Using horses feels right to me on a local, and global scale, but I think that there is a place for other skidding methods in the woods too, without question.
In the end it seems like its up to us to be conscious, sensitive and skillfull, really, in how we work in the woods. As I’m learning, the first two of those attributes aren’t much good without the last one (and vice-versa). Thanks posting that research, Scott, and for everybody’s thoughtful replies. That we can have a discussion and keep ourselves thinking about this stuff is probably one of the most important pieces of the puzzle as we try and do what’s best for the forest.August 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm #68550
It seems like we all agree here. I am the only one arguing a little little bit for machines but I would still rather use my steers. Of the last two jobs I marked I don’t think either could be cut with draft animals. The first was mostly hemlock under severe stress from the wooly adelgid. I was marking 5-7mbf/acre of wood that is worth $180/mbf delivered to the mill 15 miles away and good ground scarification is a must for the future of that forest. The other lot was a mix of cabbage pine and hemlock. It was the mostly the first generation of trees since agricultural abandonment except it had already been high graded at least once. I can’t see how a draft animal can compete in those cases with such a high volume per acre of low quality wood.
We will always need machinery for those jobs. The real trick will be making it common for the line to be drawn saying its okay here but not there.
This discussion would be better if we had a few skidder operators to through their two cents in.August 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm #68551
Sorry Ethan for taking this so far from your research question.
~TomAugust 3, 2011 at 12:09 am #68564Ethan TapperParticipant
This IS research. Glad to hear what you have to say and all the great places our discussion has gone. –EthanDecember 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm #68552
I had to bring this up again. I still stand by my statement that a good operator makes the difference not the tool used, however now that I have a few jobs under my belt with my oxen I am less and less happy with my mechanical crews.
~TomDecember 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm #68509
I wonder if you all could comment on the impact of the landowners wishes in this comparison of animals vs machines. I can see the short term economic argument for machinery and high volume production when the wood quality is low. I think Tom’s example was 5-7 mbf of wood that was worth $180/mbf… It strikes me that this is not a lot of money no matter how you cut it… Perhaps because there is little additional money that is made by a mechanical harvest, the landowner would be more attracted to a draft animal based harvest that would more closely reflect his/her ecological or aesthetic values, or his/her long term economic goals.
I do not know much about forestry, but I think if one was clever about taking less valuable trees, and only taking as many as could be taken by a simply application of animal power, then it could set up a staggered harvest of high value trees in the future. This staggered future harvest might be especially well suited to draft animal because trees might mature and be harvested in phases. Perhaps a long sighted landowner might be interested in taking a short term loss (or lower gain) by using animal power on trashier trees in order to kickstart a biological system where moderate returns on the investment can be made over a long time period, as opposed to having one huge payday when most trees are cut down. I can see how this type of return on investment would be much more attractive to a landowner from a purely economic standpoint, and might be something to think about.
This gets me to another point that I wanted to make in response to Tom earlier statement that “if I marked a stand of timber and had a skidder on half and a horse on half, after 20 years there should be no difference.” I am skeptical that this can be true on a large scale. I know that on my farm it is not true, and this is partly because the use of draft animals limits how much land I can work in a year. The power is not unlimited. So, I have small areas of cropland, small areas of pasture, small woodlots, etc. The evidence of diverse system will last 20 years for sure. Similarly, I would speculate that if the logged area was large enough, you would see a gradual harvest of timber over years from the “horse half” vs a complete harvest on the “skidder half.” I think you would see that difference 20 years later. I suppose you could harvest less trees to the same effect using a skidder, but I do not think economics support the use of a quarter or less of the capacity of expensive peices of equipment like skidders. Again, this is far outside my area of expertise, but it makes sense to me…
I also realize after I write this that I live in PA and am used to being able to select pretty high value trees (cherry, walnut, etc) where “trashy” trees have been removed. I suspect this model works less well when only low value trees can grow. Is this the case in Maine?December 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm #68553
I guess the first thing I have to say Andy is that we think about things very differently. You seem to take a mathematic/scientific approach to things. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I don’t mean that as a dig at you in anyway just that I might have trouble explaining myself.
When I made those original statements I was thinking of selecting the same trees for harvesting, in other words putting horse to skidder head to head on the exact same job. The value of draft animals in the woods is not having to follow those same rules required to complete the job with machines, which is what you were just talking about, and what I have come to learn.
The most recent job I marked for harvest is roughly 300 mbf which I expect to sell for around $180/mbf with a gross of $54,000. I charge 20% for my services that comes to $10,800, leaving the landowner with $43,200 cash in the bank. I had to mark strips through this stand with occasional holes or patches in the canopy always being aware that I had to have room for a tracked feller buncher and 8 wheeled forwarder to move around. I would not expect to harvest this stand again for 20 years.
If we harvested this property with draft power I could have done a much lighter thinning, removing only those trees that were of poor quality or mature to the point where they would not increase in value. My volume per acre may have been around 1-2mbf verses 7.5mbf/acre for the machine harvest. But once the initial improvement work was done the property could be visited every couple of years harvesting only mature trees and/or thinning gradually around good pockets of regeneration. The down side is the cost of doing this work with draft power is still greater then the value of the wood. The first improvement cut or two would probably result in a negative cash flow to the landowner. Eventually as the quality of trees harvested increased the value would also increase and the landowner could see some revenue. But right now I expect draft power logging should be in the neighborhood $200-250/mbf. (please correct me if I am wrong) White pine delivered to the mill is $250/mbf. So we would be asking the LO to sell timber at a loss right now so that in a few years they could break even or at best make $50/mbf verses the $180 a machine brings in right now.
The value is in the intangible benefits. If I think there is any chance at all a land owner is interested in draft powered logging I will relentlessly pursue the opportunity. But pretty much all of the people who hire me are doing so because they want me to make them money. My job as a forester is to do the best possible job within the constraints with which I have to work. I take the best possible forestry, the landowners goals, timber markets, and the logging contractors needs and combine them all into a project we can all live with. I am now pretty well convinced that I can do a better job with my oxen then I can expect from the majority of mechanized crews, right up until you consider finances and then things swing strongly to the mechanized operators.
It may be true that with better more valuable timber more money would be left for the landowner. I have several clients where I have done improvement harvests and left only the best trees on the property. These harvests removed large quantities of poor quality trees that resulted in a small financial gain for the LO. Those would have been extremely expensive harvest with draft power. However I think I can now start going back into those lots and start harvesting red oaks greater then 24″ dbh and leave those that are 23″ and less. Wait a few years and go back for the 24″ers again. This might be more feasible with draft power. Use the machines for the dirty work then get the draft power in?
I really think a high-bred system may be the happy medium for most harvests. Like I said before it is going to require a change in the culture of property owners in general before this moves out of being a niche market.
I really don’t have the brain power to figure out the difference in volume grown per acre over a given time period using even aged management verses uneven aged but it would be interesting to know how long it would take for that horse powered operation to level the playing field on volume produced/acre.
~TomDecember 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm #68510
Thanks Tom, this is very detailed and gives me a lot to think about and numbers to work with for greater understanding in “my way.” I can see, with these numbers, that this is an economic challenge.
PS. I have added and deleted several thoughts, as I can see they don’t make sense with Toms numbers. At these timber prices, it just seems tough. An increase in timber prices changes the picture immensely.
PPS. Is white pine the most valuable species that you would encourage/select in your area?December 11, 2012 at 4:24 am #68407
Just to muddy the waters a bit more, the stumpage “value” paid for timber by mechanical operators does not really tell the whole “Value” picture.
Mechanical harvesters, and by default foresters administering mechanical timber sales, are squeezing the quality of workmanship between the market price of the logs and the stumpage paid. Economy of scale is the easy, but not completely accurate answer for why machines can operate for less than animals. In the effort to facilitate economy of scale harvesting, many ecological considerations are diminished in lieu of short term economics, and functionality.
Comparing animal powered harvesting to mechanical is apples to oranges. There is no way that horses can run over territory like that dragging that much volume. However, I still come back to the overwhelming cost of trying to use a skidder to mimic the scale and methods used by horse loggers.
All in all, the forest is about much more than growing timber on trees. Andy has the basic theory, but the intangibles that are added to this by protecting, restoring, and enhancing the natural ecological integrity of the biological community where those tree grow, more importantly the biological community that is built because those tree grow there, are what we are overlooking.
Using animals slows us down, limits our impact, and allows us to see and be a part of the forest ecosystem while we are harvesting and improving our woodlands. The end results may have real financial value to the landowners in terms of timber assets, but finding ways to practice forestry based on ecological principles is really going to have the greatest return for common good.
I agree that private landowners have personal objectives, and that is fine, but I think we need to be realistic. You can’t have it both ways. I don’t think we can just accept that some people are willing to make investments to protect ecological principles. If folks make a purely economical decision about timber management then they need to know that they are taking something that may not belong to them.
Here are a few paragraphs out of my favorite forestry book, Woodland Ecology, Environmental Forestry for the Small Owner, Leon S. Minckler, Syracuse University Press….
…..We must take action to save our Earth of life and beauty, and we must do it soon.
“Soon” is not quite too late. We can still save much of the beauty and usefulness of forests, wildlife, and waters so characteristic of this Earth. Judged by past experience, however, Man will wait until his back is against the wall. ……. The younger generations and all concerned people will have to make the choice and take the action. …….
But there are grave obstacles and pitfalls to overcome inherent in the very nature of Man. Loren Eiseley expressed it well in The Immense Journey:
“The need is not really for more brains, the need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger, and the bear. The hand that hefted the ax, out of some old blind allegiance to the past, fondles the machine gun as lovingly. It is a habit man will have to break to survive, but the roots go very deep”
We must understand that the old methods no longer work in this present world. If we fight for ever-increasing material abundance we will destroy our uniquely beautiful environment and, eventually, our species. The choice is ours. The goal is vital. With total dedication the attainment is barely possible…..
If workmanship based on ecological principles is not the foundation for forestry and timber harvest, then part of the income from mechanical conventional forest harvesting is derived from impacts on the forest ecosystem. We are accepting environmental loss to get financial gain.
Use draft animals and practice forestry based on ecological principles, and restoring biological integrity, while improving financial timber assets. They can’t do it with machines.
CarlDecember 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm #68452Mark CowdreyParticipant
I find an original 1975 edition and a later 1980 of Woodland Ecology. Do you know how they differ?
With a second look online I see a cover banner on the second edition mentioning a new section on “Fuelwood Forestry”.December 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm #68411
Discussions of value routinely lead to questions about quantification and measurable parameters. The truth is that we can only measure what we know. What we know does not inform us materially about what we don’t know, nor does it inform us about how much we don’t know.
The ramifications of mismanaging ecological systems on Earth are serious. While some people are developing a science to quantify intangibles, the complexity of natural systems provides too many variables to adequately address before it is too late.
When we try to justify certain uses or interactions with ecosystems that contain economically important resources, such as wood, we automatically dismiss values that we cannot quantify. Observable ecological conditions like high stocking (density), natural mortality, decomposing coarse woody debris, irregular age-class distribution, and natural succession of species and stand composition are regularly overlooked in the interests of facilitating economy of scale harvesting.
The quantifiable value of these conditions is not required to recognize the fact that they are significant defining components of the natural forest ecosystem. Any work in the forest that dismisses these conditions as measurably insignificant is “missing the forest for the trees”. We cannot seriously consider forestry that does not manage our human impact on these ecological factors, economically feasible or not.
We are going to have impact. In some places, and in some conditions, we may have to accept significant impact to address urban or cultural needs. Across the landscape, though, we run the risk of destroying a vital resource.
We need to remember that Forestry was developed as a means to get landowners, and the public, to release their interest in their (our) forest asset. Finding ways to show value in cultivation has supported industrial growth, and has also provided economic opportunity for private landowners. What we have been doing is better than slash and burn, but it’s time to take it to another level and focus on the forest ecosystem as the resource, not the timber that comes out of it.
CarlDecember 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm #68412
@Mark Cowdrey 38136 wrote:
I find an original 1975 edition and a later 1980 of Woodland Ecology. Do you know how they differ?
With a second look online I see a cover banner on the second edition mentioning a new section on “Fuelwood Forestry”.
I have the 1975 edition…….. and have never seen the updated version.
CarlDecember 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm #68513
I would argue that the basic tenants of what a natural ecosystem is was and continues to be established by science, which is (or at least ought to be) rooted in careful observation and measurements taken over time or representative of time. I do not believe that “the true state of undisturbed nature” is either obvious or easily observed. The first thing that comes to my mind was the forest service policies reguarding fire in the western US that were followed before the middle of the 20th century, when most forest managers believed fires should be suppressed at all times. Perhaps they were following mental models of eastern forests, where fires are much more rare? No matter what mental models they were following, careful observation and measurement shows that they were clearly wrong, and that fire has played in important role in the ecosystem in the west for millenia. Some trees, namely giant sequoia, are even dependant upon fire as an essential part of thier lifecycle and cannot reproduce without it. These policies where changed in the 60’s after careful consideration of measurable and observable facts. The moral of the story is that years of time spent in the forest (forest managers in the western US from the late 1800’s to the mid 1960’s) does not truly let one know what is natural. I believe one must look beyond the obvious and easily observed to truly understand that system. I think this is why it takes time and education to be a forester. What is natural is simply not obvious. It is a hypothesis that can be proven or disproven by observation and data.
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