Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Powered Forestry International › Forest Products › Marketing as a horselogger for more than just timber extraction…
- November 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm #43061
I just recently completed a logging job in Grand Isle, VT, one which was quite unusual for me. This landowner has about 30 acres of mostly small hardwood growth, with remarkable species diversity – ash, elm, beech, popple, hornbeam, oak, some pine and hemlock, cherry, maple, and more. The forest has come up from abandoned farm fields, and is tightly packed with small diameter stems which needed releasing. A forester had marked the sections they wanted cut and I was hired on an hourly basis to do the TSI work, as well as cutting, skidding, and splitting about 10 cords or firewood and small number of saw logs, and also creating a trail system to be used for wood extraction as well as recreation.
The aspect of this job that was most unusual was that the landowner has a pair of draft horses that she is learning to use in the woods. Michelle hauled all the firewood rounds from the woods edge to the splitter with her team and a sled. In addition to working with my team in the woods, I spent many hours working with Michelle and team mares, helping with harness fitting, demonstrating how to rig a sled and piggyback arch safely, working with her horses on pacing and bitting, driving with her in the woods with a sled, teaching her how to use the arch for firewood extraction, repairing equipment, and more. The point here is that I was able to use more than just my wood cutting and skidding skills. I think that there are more customers out there like Michelle, who have work they want done with horses but who also have a horse or team and need one on one instruction on their own land. I do not think that this is going to replace the bulk of my other clients who want timber extraction done with horses, but it is another way to pay the bills when times are tight and also help others to use horses safely and effectively in the woods. This whole arrangement was the result of a craigslist add I posted after the roadways were washed out here by tropical storm Irene and I could not get back into the woodlot where I was working on at the time. This type of work may not be for everyone, but I think there is a niche market out there for those willing to spend time doing some teaching as well as logging. I doesn’t hurt to advertise ourselves as versatile folks with lots to offer!
-BradNovember 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm #69302Carl RussellModerator
Thanks fr sharing that Brad……What was your hourly rate??? Was it different for different tasks?
CarlNovember 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm #69304Tim HarriganParticipant
That is great, and she probably considered the opportunity and results to be well-worth the cost. This is also why it is important to have a pretty good handle on what your necessary hourly costs are. If the LO likes your work I suspect there could be a lot of these time and materials add-ons to extend the job you were hired to do.November 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm #69300
To Carl’s question, I did charge different hourly rates for different tasks. Because I was driving 3 hours round trip to and from Grand Isle, my felling/skidding with the horses was $40/hr. She did board the team there for part of the job which made things work for me financially. When I worked with Michelle on her team harness, rigging, teaching, etc. I charged $25/hr. For cutting firewood to length I charged $30/hr. and when the splitter was running (which I don’t own and had to barter to use) I charged $40/hr. If this job had been much closer to home all these rates would have been $5 less per hour. When I added up all the costs for me, especially the fuel, on most days I came out fairly close to the same net I get when I am in the woods charging by the thousand ($175-$225/mbf). I was trying to get the net to be very at least in the same ballpark, so that was good. Even though the finances were not a big issue for the landowner, I do want to be fair with my rates and at the same time ensure that is worth my while to make the trip each day.-BradNovember 7, 2011 at 2:18 am #69307BaystatetomParticipant
Brad, I am really chomping at the bit to quit doing consulting forestry full time and work in the woods with my oxen as much as possible. I have been working on a business plan and trying to crunch numbers. Before anything else I have to prove to my wife that I can do this without bankrupting us. I am glad to here your per/mbf rates are right in line with what I was expecting I would need to get. I still struggle though with how to deal with poor quality wood. Do you find that land owners are okay with paying you more then the wood is worth for species like hemlock and beech?
I also like your approach of mentoring a new comer. My grandfather was a dairy farmer/logger who did every imaginable job in between. Never turn down work if you have the time to do it.
~TomNovember 7, 2011 at 3:07 am #69305blue80Participant
I agree Brad, niches and side work as you have explained can really fill in the gaps…. Your rates seem very fair or maybe even cheap, but Im biased.
We have also noticed a demand from people who want to learn and/or want their teams trained. But one on one is expensive and few can or are willing to invest in the education experience or a long term apprenticeship. And training some strangers horses seems to have the effect that the horses end up great for me and not for the owners after the team leaves. Which brings us back to training the owners, who chronically have “no time” to pay for training…..
So finding a way to make some forward progress, by completing some work or training, during the education process should make the learning curve less expensive and more productive. And its always nice for a teacher to see a student actually working and making progress instead of spouting theory and sending the student home.
We are also getting the feealing that it seems a lot of people want to just experience working with horses, but not do it long term. So for those people, lets give them their day of fame and charge them well for it….
So one way we are hoping to facilitate this demand is through the purchase of some new equipment, which is enroute from PA as this is written. A couple ground drive I and J carts with double seats, an 8 ft. cultimulcher with double seating, and a couple of I and J trailed mowers will help us do more work in bigger hitches while training horses and talk less in between. We plan to be mobile and willing to travel to others properties to work teams, demo the new equipment, and provide agritourism options for local dude ranchers. We also hope to get some of the local organic growers interested in draftpower by demoing our new Nolts plastic much layer, modified for flood irrigation.
I guess I’m on a tangent here away from the logging perspective, but we did a three day dry run camping in the Bighorn Mtns this fall, where we can get pole permits ($45 per 100 poles any length max butt diameter 8 inches, and firewood permits (any diameter $6 per cord maximum length 8 ft. so we cant build cabins with them…..) and have interest for next year from people wanting to train their teams to work on their own property. Althought the Forest Service wouldn’t allow us to charge a fee, we think its a great opportunity to grow some community, make friends, learn from each other while in some of the nicest areas of creation.
So as you say, whats the cost of an ad on craigslist. And since nobody else seems to be offering the “work to learn service” why not see if there is a market where you are.
Might as well be flexible at least until you can afford to be picky.
KevinNovember 7, 2011 at 10:22 pm #69303Carl RussellModerator
I’m with Kevin on this…. I have charged $50/hr for draft horse teamster training when folks come here…. I can see where in the scheme of things while working at her farm you could work out a deal with her, but education is a valuable product…… just think about how much yours has cost you. It is nice to be able to share and help folks, but we also need to think about the community at large. If we undersell ourselves then we under sell the entire community of serious draft animal practitioners. People interested in learning from us should not be allowed to think that this is just a fun walk in the park, and sometimes it really comes down money talks.
And Tom don’t “quit” your consulting. Just because you log with animals doesn’t mean you can’t sell your services as a forester….. you may need to stop working for Bay State, but certainly the professional income will be an advantage to your overall business plan.
CarlNovember 8, 2011 at 1:35 am #69308BaystatetomParticipant
Kevin that sounds like a great way to branch out. Meeting new people making friends and gaining exposure all are good things. People who get to know you will either hire you or tell there friends about you and they will. My wife used to pick on me for hanging out with guys twice my age at coffee shops, but now those guys get me a ton work. The bigger your network the better.
I hope to be able to offer the complete package, forestry, harvesting, and milling. I didn’t mean to say I would quit forestry, just quit the job that has me on salary with direct deposit every other week. Scary to give up the security.November 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm #69301
I think you are all on the right track here in terms of diversification. I think the most successful, and happiest, rural folks are those who have diverse skill sets and are able and willing to change gears and address new work opportunities when they come along. Our far is very small and very diverse, with my wife working off the farm at a nurse (gets steady income and health benefits) and we produce pasture fed eggs and meat. Then, when you add some sheep shearing, logging, and teaching, we get get an income stream that keeps us afloat and allows us a lifestyle that we really enjoy. Sure, I don’t love every job I do, but who does? And, most days I really enjoy my work, whether it is farming, logging, or teaching others about how to develop rural skills. Also, I am constantly learning from others I work for and with. That is perhaps the most unusual gift of this work and lifestyle.December 8, 2011 at 2:35 am #69306PhilGParticipant
Diversification, that hits the nail on the head, we were just joking ( only not a joke) the other day that you have to do Ten different jobs to be able to live in this town of 800 people, log-sawmill-trucker-farmer-ditch digger-timber framer-painter-cabinit maker-fire wood cuter deliverer-oil changer-cook-welder….it definitely works with my a.d.d.
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