Forestry Perspectives

Articles by John Woodley

My submission to the National Farm Forestry Strategy

May 2022

The Governments, both Federal and State governments, must sell all cutting rights in State owned native forests to private industry.

Government agencies are not good at managing forests and nor are they realising true values of the timber products that are being sold from these forests.

Private farm forestry projects are competing directly with government agencies for market share and because there is a cost to grow and manage farm forestry woodlots its impossible to get reasonable returns from such ventures when selling into the same markets as government sourced produce.

Government produce is sold too cheaply because it did not cost the government to grow and manage the forests at cost levels comparable to the establishment of Farm Forestry woodlots and plantations.

I have not been able to get log prices from exporters or local sawmills which reflect my cost to establish and manage my plantations.

I have 40 hectares of farm forestry plantations at Taggerty and approximately 17 hectares of joint venture farm forestry plantations in Highlands , Victoria with a farmer.

Our first harvest of joint venture wood netted us $2.00 per tonne nett for high pruned sawlogs and pulp for export to china.

My first harvest of high quality pruned logs at Taggerty netted me $2.00 per tonne for B grade pruned sawlogs. This harvest was managed by a well known professional forester.

He was constrained by the available market and I believe he did the best he could for me.

This was 900 tonnes of sawlog and pulp for export, total nett income for me of $1,800 and it cost me $6,000 to clean up the site and replant.

This is not an isolated case and in the time I have been trying to encourage Farmers to establish timber plantations on their farms I have been unable to cover the costs of establishment and management from the proceeds of log sales.

Investors in Australia hardly ever replant after first harvest because they don’t make money from their ventures.

New Zealand Farm Foresters who sell into the same markets as Australia usually make enough money that they are keen to replant.

The New Zealand government does not own forests or sell produce from them. When the NZ government sold the cutting rights to private enterprise in 1984/85 market prices to private growers doubled and in some cases trebled. The tax payer funded forests previously owned by government were subsidised by the tax payer and sold cheaply to local sawmills and for export.

A similar situation exists in Australia and whilst the Government keeps spruiking the need for private plantations and Farm Forests, they continue to undermine the market by selling their produce way too cheaply.

It costs many times more to establish and manage private farm forests compared to what we can get for our produce and that is because the governments sell huge quantities of native timber and pine into the same markets as private enterprise.

Agencies like VicForests claim to make a profit.

The forests they sell did not cost them any money to grow. They were free after the 1939 wild fires.

Because its tax payer funded the ongoing management of these forests is subsidised and does not reflect a true market situation.

I expect this to be vehemently denied by any government agencies who sell forest produce.

The reality is that the Government will never make an environment where it is profitable to grow Farm forests as long as they are in the market themselves.

I have been trying for 27 years and unfortunately my clients who believed in the need for farm forestry plantations to supplement native forest harvest believed that there would be demand for their produce after investing large sums of money to manage their plantations to produce high quality logs.

We are disappointed and there are many mistruths involved in this push for the need to establish Farm forestry plantations.

The so called expert advisors to government keep trying to get a private farm forestry resource established but they overlook the fact that there is no money in it for the private grower.

I have beautiful pruned sawlogs both pine and native that are 25 years old and approaching 50 cm diameter.

My best price for export is $50 per tonne usually less ($40) and $2-–$3 per tonne nett for pulp both export and local market.

It costs me more money to establish and manage these trees than what I can get for them at market.

Here we are, experiencing a dramatic shortage of good pine and hardwood for local building market and my logs are worth so little in the market I might as well sell them for firewood if Australian people would buy them for firewood!

The Relevant Government departments need to analyse more the market situation before they hope to convince people to establish Farm forestry plantations to supplement a tightening ( diminishing ) native forest resource.

Otherwise I believe that they are conning the private grower when there is no reasonable return available.

I am willing to show any agency my small resource and the management of it and discuss the realities of the market with them.

It’s like Government people either have their heads in the sand or they are deliberately hiding reality from potential growers.

In my time in the industry in Australia beginning in 1988 there has been periodic talk by Government of the need for private plantations to supplement native forest harvest but it never gets off the ground because of the market situation.

Some of the government subsidised schemes like FForne used taxpayer funding to get the schemes established but only lasted three years and there was no follow up by government in terms of support for growers.

All of the farm forestry extension officer positions in Victoria closed down.

That means that there is no support from government for advice to private growers and yet the government continues to try to establish Farm Forestry plantations by farmers and landowners who cannot hope to make money from the ventures.

Another thing that I believe is that Government subsidies should not be used to establish forestry plantations.

The Government needs to look at the market situation and think about how to make it worthwhile for private growers to grow farm forestry to supply the markets both local and export.

Currently in private enterprise forestry, the people who make money are the consultants, the contractors and the mills and exporters.

The Grower is the bottom feeder and cannot hope to break even in the current market.

Another thing worth thinking about is the land area owned by life style owners who can never hope to have an economic farm because of the size of their holding.

There is a huge land base owned by these people and the Government should remove all obstacles to the establishment and management of plantations on such land.

Removing Tax Commissioner’s discretion should be a first step.

Off-setting all costs to establish and manage against other income should be allowed.

No subsidies should be granted.

Business plans should be prepared but if current market prices are used the ventures in Private Farm Forestry would not stack up.

The opinions expressed here are the opinions of John Woodley, Farm Forestry Services director and are based on his own experiences in forestry in Australia and New Zealand.

He is available and willing to discuss any aspect of this submission but requests that it not be done superficially by Government agencies who will do nothing to actually foster viable Farm forestry strategies.

This is serious business and its time for governments to get serious about it rather than maintaining the status quo and hoping the farmer and landowner will establish plantations based on hearsay and rhetoric from agencies who sell produce so cheaply that private growers can not compete.

John Woodley

Silviculture services Australia Pty Ltd
T/A Farm forestry services
252 Taggerty Thornton road
Victoria 3714

0427 747393

Farm Foresty Services at Taggerty

Aerial view of Taggerty, Boxing day 2020.

A letter to the Forest Industry in Victoria, and in fact, Australia

May 2022

In 2014 I had my 18 year old shining gum plantation clearfelled at Taggerty (E. nitens, dead flat farmland).

The nett result of this 5 hectare plantation was 900 tonnes of sawlog and pulp. The sawlogs were pruned on time and had a small DOS under 15cm and the logs were pruned to 6m. Many of these sawlogs were B grade according to recognised Hardwood log grading guidelines.

The nett result to me the grower was $2.00 per tonne or $1,800.

This was after 18 years of meticulous silviculture management.

The harvest was arranged by a reputable Forestry company and executed by a reputable harvest and cartage contractor.

It cost me $6,000 to rehabilitate the site after harvest and replant.

Somebody made a lot of money from the produce from this harvest and it wasn’t me, the grower.

So what is wrong with the timber industry that this could happen?

Am I crazy to replant? In a commercial sense I would say yes. But there’s more!

Who made the money from this venture? Who is responsible for the current state of the market where Australian private growers do not make profit from their timber growing ventures? The consulting forester made money and the harvest/cartage contractor certainly made money. The site was flat with good access to a tar sealed road.

And why do NZ timbergrowers make enough profit from their ventures that its worth replanting? The timber and logs go to the same markets!

Someone is ripping us off!

Recently I was given a quote to commercially thin 8 ha of 12 year old E. nitens, good volume of sawlog and pulp well managed, outrows already established, and it was going to be a loss situation. I was going to have to top it up from my own pocket!

When this plantation was five years old a commercial thin yielded $2 per tonne nett. It is a very good plantation, well managed and high yielding.

Also recently clients who did a commercial thin on 30 hectares of dead flat ground and netted around $40,000. The harvest contractor took every third row completely out and took very few lesser stems from the rows either side. It was a cream job.

In my opinion the plantation should have yielded $100,000 for my clients.

The price for export sawlogs for that job was $118 delivered to Footscray. The managing forester and the harvest contractor paid my clients $18.00! So $100 per cubic metre went on consulting and harvest and cartage. The inventory was already done and no roading was required. Tar sealed road at the front gate.

If harvest is $35.00 per cubic metre and cartage $35 per cubic metre did the manager charge $30 per cubic metre for arranging the harvest? What happened to the $30 ? That money would have made a huge difference to my clients bottom line.

Native forest harvest for hardwood in the Taggerty/Marysville area is around $31–$34.00 for clearfall and cartage $29.00 per cubic metre to Footscray, $33.00 to Geelong for pulp. My opinion is that the harvest and cartage contractor made money very easily on this job at $35 per cubic metre for both harvest and cartage, total $70.00/cubic metre.

Before leaving this project it is worth appreciating the very easy flat going and the simple method of removing every third row. Volumes removed would be lower than some native forests , so it would be fair to expect a higher harvest rate.

Interestingly my clients invested $6,000 per hectare so far and their return so far has been $1,333 per hectare.

This means that after another commercial thin and the final crop harvest the timber will have to be more valuable than this time, where approximately one third of the standing trees have been removed if they are to break even or make a profit.

I have replanted Taggerty after the 2014 harvest because I believe that market corrections are ahead and that the grower will eventually get a larger slice of the proceeds.

I have strong feelings about Government involvement in forestry whether it be through sales of timber from Government owned native forests and through tax incentives with the timber based managed investment schemes.

The Government, through ignorance, handed serious wealth to the MIS scheme managers who charged investors up to $10,000 per hectare when maximum cost per hectare for establishment and on going management was around $1500. Investors usually lost money because of over inflated projections on growth and end volumes and of course paying too much in the first place.

I also have the view that Government ownership and the selling of timber from government owned forests has created a situation where privately owned plantation hardwood forestry projects are competing directly in the market with government managed timber sales. The truth is that the government got these forests for nothing after the 1939 wildfires caused widespread destruction of existing forests.

The regeneration that happened naturally created forests on which the current native timber industry is resourced.

Because the forests were very low cost to the government they have been selling the produce from these forests at prices that plantation forest owners cannot compete with and hope to recover costs and make a profit.

In my opinion this is a major impediment to the development of hardwood plantations through private enterprise.

I don’t believe in Government grants or subsidies to assist with establishment of plantations when the market prices are so low as to create low income or even loss situations at harvest time. All that subsidies and grants do is establish plantations which will not generate a profit for the owners at harvest time.

Plantation forestry investment requires long term thinking and viable market situations.

At the moment we have neither. In Europe we have forests which are owned and managed through more than one generation of a family.

That situation is rare or non-existent in Australia.

There other mitigating factors which the public at large are not aware of.

The timber industry lobbied the government in past decades saying that they needed continued access to native forests because quality timber could not be grown in plantations.

This has subsequently been proved wrong and it has delayed the establishment of plantations because the government believed what they were being told by the timber industry representatives.

When I was working as a faller for 13 years in the native forests, timber giant Lloyd Gould told me face-to-face that I was wasting my time establishing plantations because the timber would always be inferior to that of native forests.

I had knowledge from New Zealand that gave me confidence that he was wrong. In the meantime the timber industry itself did not support the development of a hardwood plantation resource so we are really behind the eight ball with having a resource ready to supplement native forest harvest which is in decline.

The expertise and infrastructure for harvest cartage and milling of local native forests is diminishing rapidly and logs are being exported and value added en masse to China and Korea. It’s a cheap resource to these countries and they can add value easily with milling and manufacture into desirable furniture products.

In many cases the timber is being sold back to Australia either as sawn timber or furniture.

The native furniture manufacturing in Australia has virtually closed down because of this situation.

New Zealand forest owners of pine forests nearly always replant after harvest because it was profitable for them.

Near Tumbarumba there is thousands of acres of investor owned forests that made the owners a loss when harvested. There is no incentive to replant under such conditions.

Why is our market so different to New Zealand?

The New Zealand government does not own forests from which timber produce is sold, either native or pine.

I believe that this is the key to much needed change in Australia.

Governments should not own and sell timber (or sawmills for that matter - Heyfield is the Victorian example).

In that case the government needs to guarantee supply in order to preserve the mill workers jobs that they wanted to save by buying the mill. Who will get first crack at the native resource that’s available when the available resource shrinks dramatically as it is doing now? If the government does not guarantee supply to that mill ahead of all others the jobs of their millworkers will be at risk.

Back to Privately owned hardwood plantations.

History shows that plantations that are established with government grant money or subsidies are rarely well managed because the owner does not have a financial investment for the total cost.

Victoria is littered with poorly managed plantations that were established with government grant money. Those that have been well managed because of the commitment of the owners are not making a profit at harvest commensurate with the value of the timber that is harvested.

The consultants and contractors make a living from forestry but the owners of the plantations rarely cover costs and certainly don’t make a profit.

The way forward?

1. The government must sell the cutting rights to private industry and exit the market

2. Government and the timber industry should collaborate on long term projects to have well managed hardwood plantations producing quality sawlogs and pulp for the markets.

3. Education of government ministers and the timber industry on how to do this. There are good examples of well managed plantations privately owned to assist with this process. No more short term thinking because there is (was) a vast native forest resource available for harvest. In the last twenty years this resource has had several adjustments in available resource because it was found that the resource was not being managed sustainably.

4. Stop selling native produce so cheaply in the market. Vic Forests only makes a profit by creative accounting. The sales proceeds don’t even cover their own operating costs (this is my opinion and because I don’t have access to the right information I can’t state it as a fact).

5. Royalty rates for native forest produce are not widely available to the public at large.

6. As our own hardwood timber industry declines, equatorial rainforest timber sells readily into the Australian market. This is sourced from produce harvested by wealthy South East Asian timber barons who have friends in high places in governments.

7. Government has little knowledge or experience of forestry as such. Ministers rely on people down the line informing them and that is usually only when there is a crisis.

8. The royalty rates I made in 2014 for my own harvest which had a large percentage of B grade sawlogs was $2.00 per tonne nett. Yes the sawlogs of high quality were exported and I received pulpwood nett prices!

Did I get ripped off or is this the real state of the Australian timber industry?

9. Making a profit from timber growing is the single largest factor that will sustain a plantation industry and encourage private investors back to the industry.

10. A plantation industry needs to have scale that would supplement native forest produce and help sustain existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, because of lack of foresight by both government and the timber industry existing infrastructure will decline until its viable for people to invest in infrastructure again. That will require a sustainable and well managed plantation resource.

11. The Victorian Farmers federation recently sent a delegation to NZ to see how plantations on-farms works. We already have some pioneers in this country who could educate these people with Australian conditions that prevail. Surely this is relevant.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions presented here belong to John Woodley.

They are presented with what he has been able to deduce from his own experiences regarding the state of the industry.

He has 40 years of experience in the forest industry as a silviculture contractor, Native hardwood faller (15 years) and forest owner both in New Zealand and Australia.

VicForests operation is quite secretive and there are aspects to the running of VicForests which are not public knowledge or easily obtained.

Log royalties tend not to be public knowledge and as a tax payer funded organisation I believe that VicForests should be more transparent.

The Government is currently trying to encourage Farm forestry to supplement the native forest supply. It’s their presence in the market which makes it impossible for private forest owners to sell timber into the same markets and make a profit.

It costs money to establish and manage a well managed timber plantation and those costs mean that a private grower cannot compete with the government because they did not have to buy their forests. The forests established naturally after the 1939 wildfires and did not cost the government to grow.

High Quality plantation grown native sawlogs for delivery to sawmill.
High Quality plantation grown native sawlogs for delivery to sawmill.
High Quality plantation grown native sawlogs for delivery to sawmill

High Quality plantation grown native sawlogs for delivery to sawmill.

Harvest underway

Harvest underway.

Good yield from 18 year old plantation

Good yield from 18 year old plantation.

Successful Farm walk at Taggerty

26 October 2019

John Woodley’s Farm walk / field day on Saturday saw a good attendance despite changeable weather conditions.

The attendees were a broad range of people from conservation minded people to interested agroforestry practitioners and farmers.
Rowan Reid, renowned Agroforestry practitioner, university lecturer and author captivated the group with his talk on land use and sustainability and including trees in the farming landscape.

Howard Webster, farmer and Melbourne businessman gave a good talk on his reasons for choosing farm forestry as an investment and why he bought land especially to grow trees and farm animals.

John Coyne, arborist and sawmiller gave a demonstration by milling a mountain ash log that John Woodley planted at Taggerty twenty two years ago.

John Woodley emphasised that whilst his trees were for multiple benefits including wind shelter and shade for animals, with the right management very good quality sawlogs could be produced in relatively short time frames.

For instance a native sawlog could be produced on a farm in less than half the time for a sawlog from an unmanaged native forest. Rowan Reid emphasised that the faster growing time in no way diminished the quality of the timber.

Woodley said that his mission was to demonstrate that it is possible to integrate trees and native understorey for biodiversity into the farming landscape without reducing productivity, but rather increasing it.

Woodley said that while his original idea was to demonstrate that very good sawlogs could be grown on farms the project has become much more than a timber growing exercise with time.

His property has become a very nice place to live and work because of the way he has used trees in the landscape.

Because of the number of species now exceeding 130 natives and exotics he is pursuing the idea of creating an arboretum for future enjoyment of trees and shrubs by the public.

His intention is to hold more field days in future to increase the knowledge of farmers and the public about trees on farms.
Milling Mountain Ash

John Coyne about mill one of Woodley’s mountain ash log.

Tree Pruning

John Neame demonstrating pruning to create clear timber in a future sawlog.

The Story of an Environmental Woodlot that is managed primarily for timber

1 June 2016

These days plantations for timber are viewed unfavourably by many conservation minded people. This is unfortunate because timber plantations can have multiple benefits depending on how they are managed. My mission here is to outline the process of establishing and maintaining a plantation from conception to a time further away in years towards either final harvest or partial harvest, or no harvest at all; in other words in the event that the owners prefer to keep the plantation as an amenity planting for enjoyment.

I tend to refer to these timber plantations as Environmental Woodlots because despite an intended end use of harvest for timber, these plantations provide multiple environmental benefits for as long as they are standing and managed. I anticipate that people who might be interested in establishing and managing a woodlot for future timber harvest might already be wanting to do their bit for the planet in helping to mitigate a range of environmental issues in today’s world.

The first step in getting a plantation project off the ground is the helping of the potential client to identify what they really want from the project. That way planning can be done with the clients needs foremost in the thinking. Ideally planning begins a year before planting time so that there is time to cover all the issues involved with planning. ( Does the client already own land or do they need help sourcing suitable land?)
If the client has land, planning would ideally start in June July, August of the year before planting.

Soil Pits and soil tests, Rainfall.
Soil pits should be dug to ascertain the depth of soil to bedrock and also the soil profile. This helps with selection of suitable species. Soil specs and rainfall combine to provide a basis for species selection.
The information from the soil pits and tests will give the potential owner enough to decide whether or not to proceed with a project.

Cost income projections.
Cost income projections can be done in the form of a spreadsheet to give a financial basis for the potential project. This can also give the potential owner confidence of the processes and costs for the life of the project, year by year.

Soil preparation.
Depending on the soil test results lime and fertiliser applications are made before deep ripping by bulldozer. The ripping is done to a minimum depth of 600mm or 60cm and the ripper must have a wing on it to lift and shatter the soil as it passes through the soil.
Ripping is usually done in the driest months, December to March so that maximum shatter is induced in the soil profile. This shatter is what loosens the soil to allow the roots of the young seedling to follow the moisture as it recedes in to the summer as the ground heats up.
Where soil is particularly cloddy with large hard lumps of soil and lots of air gaps we usually disc the ripped mound to till the soil more ready for planting and reduce the large air gaps.

Pre-plant weed control.
Usually one month before planting time ( June for pine, July / August for eucalypts ) pre-plant weed control spray is applied to a one metre wide strip along the mound to knock down any live weeds and prevent germination of new weeds. This spray gives about six months of no weed competition for the young seedlings from planting time.

Planting is done in the mid winter for pines ( when the seedling is dormant ) and spring time for eucalypts when the seedling is on the move and the soil is still moist but starting to warm up.
June / July for pines. September for eucalypts.

Second year weed control.
By the onset of autumn and winter following planting sometimes the weed / grass growth has been vigorous when the preplant weed control effects wear off and if the weeds and grass are not controlled they will seriously affect growth in the seedlings into the second spring if left unchecked.
Generally if seedlings are more than 1.5 metres high in the first year from planting and there is a lot of grass and weeds present then second year control is considered not necessary. If the seedlings remain at say half a metre high then second year weed control is called for.

Foliage sampling.
Foliage sampling can be a good way of determining nutrient status of young seedlings and can indicate that application of fertiliser may be called for. This is done in June when seedlings are at their most dormant.
Monitoring of plant health and nutrient status is the main observation until time for the first prune, usually year five in pines and year three in eucs.

Pruning and thinning.
Pruning of the best 30% of trees is designed to produce clearwood in the bottom 6 metres of log. By removing the branches the tree grows knot free timber so that in an ideal situation the bottom log is defect and branch free and of high value. The pruning is usually done in three lifts of approximately 2 metres per lift as the tree grows so that removal of the bottom 2 metres of branches does not slow the growth of the tree too much.

Rule of thumb; pruning starts when the tree is at least 5 or 6 metres high and pruning the bottom 2m – 2.5 metres would remove less than 50% of the green crown.
With eucalypts the first prune can begin as early as age three and with pines as early as age five or six.

Thinning to waste (Non commercial thinning).
Thinning progressively gives the crop trees room to grow diameter. By removing the worst trees and retaining the best trees the plantation is managed for eventual harvest of the best trees. Initial thinning in eucalypts is to waste where the first thinning rots on the ground because the trees are too small to be of commercial value.

Commercial Thinning.
More trees than are required for final harvest are planted and in the case of clearwood pruned regimes, the thinning removes the worst trees first. This is managing the genetic variation that exists in seed produced tree seedlings. Ultimately with eucalypts approximately 30% of the planted stock end up being pruned as an interim crop, 50% being retained until say age 8 when the 20%of unpruned retained stems are thinned for pulpwood commercially, with 15% or less being the ultimate final crop figure depending on desired final diameters.

For volume based forestry, ( pines in most cases in Australia ) the focus is on optimising volumes produced for lower grade material such as pulpwood with thinning being done commercially and progressively from about age 13 through to leaving a final crop of sawlogs at age 35 years plus. This regime ensures that branch size is kept small enough that knot size in the timber is small enough that the timber is suitable for construction grade wood for structural use.
One needs to be aware that thinning opens up the stand and can make it vulnerable to wind throw if high winds are experienced soon after thinning if the ground is still soft from say winter or spring rains.

Pines usually have up to four commercial thins before final harvest. The first thin is cost neutral because of small piece size and lower volumes of wood being removed. After the first thinning all thinning usually produces an income, increasing at each thin according to piece size and volumes being removed. The larger the piece size, the more commercially viable it is especially where sawlogs are concerned.

Eucalypts may have as many as three commercial thinnings before final harvest at age approximately 20 to 25 years of age. The first commercial thin at about ge 8 produces mainly pulpwood but subsequent thins may produce sawlogs and peelers for plywood.
In one of my joint venture plantations the first commercial thin was at age five ( shining gum ) and whilst the return was very small it did better than cost neutral.

Monitoring the crop from first thin through to final harvest.
The role of the plantation manager / forester from the time thinning starts is to monitor tree growth and schedule subsequent thins so that the crop tree growth is fast and even. The idea is to maintain even growth and consistency in the growth rings so that the sawlogs are more stable at milling time. This is particularly important with eucalypts ( hardwood ). Pine ( softwood ) is less demanding in this respect.
Other aspects to managing a woodlot for multi use and benefits.
I favour the planting of native understory shrubs either in a perimeter belt or randomly throughout the plantation to provide biodiversity to what might otherwise be a monoculture. In the case of eucalypt plantations this makes the plantation more of a natural forest with a balance of plant species for native wildlife, bees and soil benefits. For instance wattles fix nitrogen in the soil and are symbiotic with eucalypts and they provide food for small mammals such as gliders and possums, and pollen for bees.

Shelter for farm animals.
Strategically placed plantations can provide shade from the hot sun for farm animals, and shelter from cold winter winds. They can also provide native wildlife corridors to allow movement of native animals across the landscape.
Amenity values.
A well managed woodlot or plantation can provide a beautiful amenity in the landscape. A place to rest, enjoy the trees, and relax from pressures of life.

Shelter and shade for people.
Homesteads and farm buildings can benefit from shade and shelter from thoughtful placement of woodlots in relation to prevailing winds, sun, and buildings where people live and work.

Biodiversity for birds, native animals and soil flora.
Planting of belts or random plantings of native understory shrubs is encouraged when establishing woodlots for timber. This increases the environmental component without compromising the growth of the timber trees. This benefits the native birds and animals, particularly the small mammals, and also the soil. Wattles fix nitrogen for instance and they can perform very good work in the soil even when short lived species.

There is a threat worldwide to the bee population. Bees are vital for pollination of a range of crops for food and there is a growing awareness of the need to nurture bees in order to benefit mankind simply from a food supply perspective. Environmental woodlots have the capacity to support bees and having a diverse range of species within the woodlot can enhance the length of time that woodlot can sustain a hive before the bees have to range further afield for food (pollen and nectar).

Wildlife habitat.
Environmental woodlots can sustain a range of native animals and small mammals and the value of this aspect should not be underestimated. For instance owls need small mammals to feed on. Small mammals like to live in Eucalypt plantations but feed on wattles so the understorey is important to sustain life.
Value Propositions for Environmental Woodlots;

  • Great for the planet – good for the environment
  • Enjoyable and enhances quality of lifestyle
  • Leave a legacy for the next generation (children)
  • Commercially viable investment
  • We do the total management package.
John Woodley

Spotted gum in an environmental woodlot planted September 2015 near Avenel. This tree is eight months old at time of photo.

First harvest at Taggerty Agroforestry Farm and Arboretum
The first commercial harvest of Plantation grown Shining gum ( eucalyptus nitens ) has taken place at the Taggerty Agroforestry Farm. Owner, John Woodley, is very pleased with the exceptional quality of the sawlogs that came from the harvest,. Many of the 18 year old pruned logs yielded “B” grade quality logs according to the Native sawlog grading standards.

Woodley says that these logs will produce flooring and finishing timber of exceptional quality, very similar to Vic Ash and Tassie oak. He says that the results of this first harvest clearly demonstrate that native sawlogs of high quality can be grown in plantations on farmland. It is the culmination of his original vision when he started planting the property in 1995.

Shining gum is one of the species that is sold as Vic Ash and Tassie oak from native forest sawlogs.
Woodley intends to replant next winter / spring but will use different eucalypt native species which have already proved better performing on the low lying clay soils at Taggerty. Trial plantings of different species on adjacent land has shown good performance and better drought tolerance than shining gum. The shining gum is not drought tolerant and is also susceptible to root rot on the clay soils with poor drainage. Woodley says that he will stay with the wider row spacing in the new plantings because it gives the trees more space to grow sawlogs of up to 60cm in diameter in twenty years.

Contrary to popular belief among traditional sawmillers and foresters, fast grown eucalypt sawlogs are NOT of lower quality because of their fast growth. In fact the timber maintains its hardness and mills more consistently than the logs from native forests because of the management to keep competition between trees to a minimum. Competition can cause stresses in the logs which reduce the recovery rate of high quality boards when milling, especially on smaller diameter sawlogs.

Woodley has timber stacks of shining gum flooring from his plantation grown trees.
He has considerable experience with growing and milling of eucalypt trees for timber and he says that provided the species is matched to the site in terms of soil type and rainfall, large diameter sawlogs can be produced in relatively short rotations of twenty years and up to thirty years for the slower growing and very drought tolerant species. He worked in an alpine hardwood logging crew for fifteen years so has considerable experience with native timber. Coupled with this is a background in pine forest management from New Zealand.

Woodley originally bought the Taggerty property in 1994 because of it’s historic rainfall figure of 900mm ( 36 inch ) which he says provides adequate rainfall for a broad range of native species, as well as pine which he says is a very valuable and useful timber for building construction. He sees the pine being useful for framing because of its ease of handling and nailing, and the native species being useful for finishing timber and durability and attractiveness for flooring.

Among his favourite species for this area are spotted gum (Corymbia maculata ) southern bluegum ( Eucalyptus bicostata ) and Sydney bluegum (Eucalyptus saligna ). Spotted gum, while frost sensitive, can be grown in this area very well when planted on a sloping site which provides air drainage at night time and much reduced incidence of frost.

The Taggerty Agroforestry farm and Arboretum is being developed as an arboretum (collection of trees ) because of the broad range of species that has been planted in the twenty years that Woodley has owned the property. The real value of this diverse planting has shown that species that do well have flourished and unsuitable species have shown poor performance and sometimes it has taken many years for the negatives to show up, after sometimes spectacular early growth. Woodley is planning more workshops to give local landowners an insight into how they can grow native trees and exotics as multi use woodlots for timber, shade and shelter and amenity. The environment can always be enhanced by the correct use of trees even in a farming landscape where grazing of animals is the primary income earning objective.

School and group visits are welcomed by Woodley who is more than happy to talk about his mistakes as well as his successes in growing sawlogs for high quality timber. There is also much to see and learn about biodiversity, in both plants and native animals.

Farm Forestry and Emotional Superannuation
I consider emotional superannuation to be the investing in ones life in ways that create a state of mind where one’s sense of well being improves over time because of how one lives, and particularly what one creates that improves the emotional quality of life.

As with financial superannuation where one usually expects to get back more than one puts in, so it is with emotional superannuation where one tends to get back more in terms of feelings of wellbeing, than one puts in.

Tree growing and farm forestry has the capacity to increase ones sense of wellbeing over time as the tree or trees grow from small seedlings to giants.

Few people who get involved with planting and nurturing trees ever lose interest in trees over their life time.

The simple act of planting a tree tends to provide great enjoyment as one experiences the growth of the tree and the various changes that happen to the
surrounding landscape. There is shade where before there may have been none. There is somewhere for birds to sit and sing, and perhaps even nest and set up home, there is the sound of wind through the leaves and branches, insects and other animals may set up home and both humans and animals can enjoy the shade and aesthetics of the trees as seasonal change, however subtle, manifests itself through the colour of the foliage.

I describe this realisation of change and acknowledgement of landscape change, usually for the better, as emotional superannuation.

Until trees become too big and need to be trimmed or harvested, there is nearly always a certain amount of pleasure for those who commissioned the planting and experienced the resulting landscape and environmental change.

Tree growers and farm foresters know about this and while they may not have considered that they are receiving emotional superannuation through their tree growing activities, they nearly always feel good about what they do with trees.

John Evelyn, author of “Sylva or a discourse of Forest trees”, wrote in 1664; “Men rarely plant trees until they become wise, this is till they grow old, and find, by experience, the prudence and necessity of it.”

I journeyed through life with aircraft engineering with the RNZAF from school, then world championship level motorcycle road racing to silviculture and tree growing. I started working with trees from the age of 31 and the die was cast.

The meaning of life?

It is through tree growing and farm forestry that I have found my place and the meaning of life, which is basically happiness through one’s work.
The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association and it’s members do much towards creating happier lives for it’s members through encouraging the growing and of trees. The NZ group is well ahead of we Australians in terms of the scale of farm forestry and the marketing of farm grown timber.

Young children who are lucky enough to be exposed to tree planting and nurturing by their parents start their emotional superannuation early and often unknowingly. They are usually just enjoying being out their with their parents planting and playing with trees. Every child who is exposed to this activity remembers it when they grow older. We have a small but dedicated group of tree growers here in Australia who are having an important impact on both the landscape and people who notice what they are doing with trees.

Real wealth?

I started planting my own forests because I wanted to become financially rich.

However being rich from proceeds of my tree growing seems a far distant dream especially when recent commercial thinnings of two of my eucalypt joint ventures netted $2.00 per tonne after expenses! A cheque for $1500 for 750 tonnes of pulpwood is my first real income from my forests. Not particularly encouraging so far as financial superannuation goes!

In reality though crop trees are growing well, and my emotional superannuation is growing beautifully and the more I continue to help my clients establish and manage their trees and plantations the more my overall happiness goes up. I suspect that this is how it is for most farm forestry growers and advisers/consultants anywhere in the world.

Farm Forestry "is it worth it?"
With the failure of some of the largest forestry based MIS companies in recent times the plantation forestry sceptics are having a field day with negative talk about forestry investment. Whether it be investment in commercial forestry companies through either the share market or managed investment schemes, or Farm forestry where landowners establish and manage their own “investment” in forestry the story is often the same ; “too long to wait for the money”.

The Australian Story seems to be one of generally negative sentiment about long term investment in timber crops for sawlogs and veneer that can take 25 to 35 years to reach harvest maturity. Most of the MIS schemes that failed offered pulpwood investments with a ten year rotation. Investors found it more attractive to invest in two ten or twelve year crop rotations rather than one 25 -30 year crop.

Most people know of someone who enjoys high returns in share market or property investments. Few people have friends who have become wealthy through small scale forestry whether it be as passive investors or as hands on Farm Foresters.

I am urging the public at large to reconsider their investment motives and take another look at Forestry investment for three main reasons.

1.Ethical investment – investing in a primary industry that needs long term supply of raw material on which to base investment decisions in continually upgrading plant and equipment, from the silviculture contractors who plant the tree seedlings through the harvesting contractors and sawmillers, to the processors who value add and market the end product. Also the underlying implication of supporting a green industry that not only supplies a large range of timber and pulp and paper product to industry but has the capacity to lock up carbon on a large scale, surely beneficial to the planet environmentally.

2. Investment in a long term crop which has the flexibility to smooth out market fluctuations and has less exposure to market downturns than an annual crop or farming enterprise where that particular years produce has to be sold for the market going price ;because few farmers can afford to hold and store until the market improves. This is particularly so with animal farming, whereas in forestry sale of the standing timber can be delayed sometimes for years until markets improve, without it affecting the crop too adversely.

3. Investment in a plantation timber crop with solid investment potential which has strong potential for growth in value given current over cutting ( often non sustainable use) of native timber resources around the world. Global demand for timber is likely to increase exponentially as population growth continues, and eventually a currently undervalued resource of raw material, that is standing timber, will be worth two or three times current values because of demand. This is my opinion and I refer to the 1993 timber price spike in New Zealand when 10 hectares of well managed pine on a farm was worth a million dollars to the farmer as a standing crop. (This contrasts starkly with some recent scenarios in Australia where growers have received so little for their harvest that there is little incentive to grow a second crop).

Other incentives for consideration:

Secondary market for immature plantations.
In time I see a secondary market developing where immature plantations can be bought and sold as a commodity perhaps several times from establishment to harvest, where plantations change hands between owners and investors according to their needs and lifestyle choices, and investors such as sawmillers and timber merchants who want to secure long term supply to support their investment in sawmills, processing plants, and shipping infrastructure.

Diversification of land use on farms which can add a long term aspect to the future farming income.

Establishment or purchase of these plantations can be timed so that harvest or on-selling can coincide with significant family events like children going to University, new machinery requirements, retirement of older generations to house in town without increasing the debt burden of the farm. Or simply enhancing the farming lifestyle with the harvest proceeds funding previously unheard of indulgences for farming families such as overseas family holidays or new or improved housing and so on.

Adding value to the farm through both timber values and enhancing the living environment for both animals and people to make the farm a much nicer place to live. This aspect is significant in terms of productivity and is often overlooked.

There is an inclination for farmers to feel that trees are taking up valuable land that could be growing a shorter rotation crop in which they see and feel the money more quickly, without appreciation for some of the underlying values that the trees provide such as shelter from wind, sun, and frost that can actually increase productivity on the remaining land.

It is generally accepted in scientific farming circles that 20% of most farms could be converted to Forestry in the form of strategically placed shelter belts, and woodlots without impacting negatively on farm income. In other words the remaining 80% of land area being farmed often has improved productivity to match total income before the forestry areas were established.

The New Zealand experience seems to suggest that most people who invest in forestry whether as passive investors or hands on investors, usually re invest their money in forestry. In other words they are happy with the end result.

I believe that we are not far away from that being the case in Australia.


John Woodley is a passionate farm forester who believes that Farm Forestry has a good future in Australia. With his wife Susan, he owns the Taggerty Agroforestry Farm at Taggerty, which demonstrates how trees can be used on farms for shelter, timber and environmental values.

He has experienced the ups and downs of Forestry investment both in New Zealand and Australia and he believes that there has never been a better time to invest in forestry especially well managed plantations for sawlogs on farms in Australia.

At 60 years of age he has been involved with Farm forestry for about 30 years. with 15 years of that as a faller and log grader in a native hardwood logging crew in the Victorian high country. He continues to plant forests and he is excited about the future for Forestry in Australia.

His company Farm Forestry Services currently employs four people full time and manages a number of plantations for clients. His other company, Treelot company, manages investments for passive investors who are interested in investing in well managed projects for high value sawlog and veneer logs for the local market.

Why planting trees on farms is worth the effort
Planting trees on farms has many benefits . If thought is put into what tree species are used and where they are planted on the farm then multiple benefits result and there is little if any downside to the economics.

The main reason that foresters encourage tree planting on farms is economic.

There are some long standing conflicts here that takes forward thinking and generational change and a combination of the two to effect the change in attitude required to plant and manage trees on modern farms.

There are farmers still operating who were either involved with the original clearing of the land from bush, or their fathers and grandfathers were the tree clearers, and many who farm those lands still think that trees are a nuisance because you can’t grow good grass where trees are standing.

The common economic thinking of those people is about growing grass to feed animals and that requires maximum sunlight, and trees interfere with that philosophy. It is only partly right and thought should be given to how trees can be located for maximum benefits to the farm as a whole.

In recent years scientists and forward thinking farmers have rediscovered the idea that trees can be useful in the farming context mainly for reasons of animal health, that is, allowing the stock to take refuge from burning hot sun and shelter from cold icy winds.

Scientists have also proved that up to 20% of the average farm could be planted to trees as woodlots or shelter belts with no loss of production. If thought is given to strategic placement of these trees with regard to sun and prevailing wind then surely adding timber trees to the farming landscape is worth considering.

Hot and Cold.
A hot dairy cow’s milk production reduces by as much as 15% in high summer if they can not get out of the sun for a while during the hottest part of the day.

A cold sheep requires 1.6 times the amount of feed just to sustain itself than what a warm and comfortable sheep requires.

In these two facts lies some good indicators that happy animals are likely to be more productive and in fact if conditions can be created to give shelter from extremes of hot and cold weather then productivity can be maintained on less feed.

Happy Animals, Happy Farmers.
The same environment that makes animals comfortable and more productive often makes a nicer environment for the farmer to work in.

If timber belts or woodlots are strategically placed so that they provide shade and wind shelter benefits to each paddock on a farm then the productivity of the farm should rise, and there is an added bonus with the potential for future sales of the
timber should the need arise.

Farming is a terrific lifestyle for many Australians but it is often a cash poor and challenging existence especially where raising a young family is concerned.

What if there is 20% of the farm under well managed woodlots and shelter belts, part of which could be sold or harvested when it is time for children to go to university?

What if timber could be sold to finance the retirement of the older generation to a house in town rather than raising debt which the younger generation who are taking over the farm will then have to carry?

Then there is the family holidays and the other indulgences that city folk often enjoy, but which farming families often forego because finances may not allow it, unless families are fortunate enough to have off farm income. Improving the financial well being of farming families is the main reason why I
encourage farmers to plant trees.

Potential Timber Values.

In New Zealand in 1993 for a short while there was a world spike in timber prices because of a shortage of native pine from North America, and 10 hectares ( 25 acres )of well managed pine woodlot was worth One million dollars to the farmer as a standing plantation. This worked out to about $300 per tree.

That situation no longer exists and values tend to be considerably lower in Australia but looming future shortages may influence timber tree values favourably.

Combine these thoughts with the fact that there is not enough timber harvest, either native or plantation grown, within Australia, to provide Australia with it’s own timber needs.

Australia imports over two billion dollars worth of timber, pulp and paper products each year.

What will happen when the equatorial forests and native forest harvest around the world reduces through climatic necessity? How will we provide our timber needs then?

Farms have the means of growing and producing significant quantities of commercial timber at the same time as improving the productivity of the farm through shelter and diversity of income.

A bit of planning and strategic planting of trees can result in greatly enhanced farming environments and landscape, improved diversity of habitat for native birds, and may provide extra cash for future financial needs for the farming family.

Landscape and property values.
Downloaded from only does this make the farm a nicer place to live for animals , resulting in improved animal production, it makes for happier and more contented human beings, and it usually adds significant financial value to the real estate.

Farm Forestry Services.
Farm Forestry Services at Taggerty can provide the full range of services to establish trees on farms from talking with the owners and planning what trees and shrubs to plant where, to planting and helping owners manage the tree plantings for timber, enhanced farming environment for both animals and people, enhanced landscape values, improved native bird and animal habitat, management of salinity and
enhanced water quality.

Owner of the business John Woodley has almost 30 years in the forestry and farm forestry business in both New Zealand and Australia. He employs a team of local people to help him manage trees for clients.

He is the owner of a 40 hectare Agroforestry demonstration farm at Taggerty Victoria, is a joint venture partner in farm forestry sawlog plantations in Victoria, and is the director of a company, Treelot Company, which specialises in Forestry investment projects for sawlogs.

John is a practical forester from a dairy farming background and he understands the issues that are involved with establishing and managing trees on farms.

How trees on farms can make for happy farming
This might seem an unusual statement considering we are only one or two generations on from the wholesale land clearing that was done to reduce shading from trees and grow more grass for farm animals.

Some of the more forward thinking farmers left a certain number of trees standing for shade and shelter for the animals but very often large tracts of land were cleared without thought for future comfort of animals. It is still not unusual to see farm paddocks well fenced but without any shade or wind shelter for the animals.

It is a known fact that dairy cows can drop milk production by as much as 15% if they are unable to find shade in the hot summer months of the year.

The other fact is that a cold sheep consumes up to 1.6 times the feed of a warm sheep in order to try and keep warm.

This means that in winter animals need to take shelter from the cold winds in order to conserve feed, body heat, and body weight. Strategic planting of trees can assist with this.

These days we are seeing trees being planted on farms specifically for the well being of animals because of the recognised benefits of happier animals leading to increased production.

Happier and more productive animals usually leads to the farmer and his family being happier. By changing the environment for the benefit of the farm animals the farmer makes a more pleasant farming environment for himself and his family as well, not to mention beautification of the farming landscape.

There is often a modification to the extremes of climate especially on windy sites, and then there is the potential for future timber sales from well managed woodlots and shelter belts to provide for education of children and young adults, the retirement of the older generation to town living and the succession of the farm to the younger generation without incurring large debt to fund it.

Articles by others (external links)

One football pitch of forest lost every second in 2017, data reveals
The world lost more than one football pitch of forest every second in 2017, according to new data from a global satellite survey, adding up to an area equivalent to the whole of Italy over the year…

Read the full article from The Guardian

Push for plantation to replace native timber
The owner of Australia’s largest hardwood sawmill in Heyfield in Victoria’s Gippsland region announced last week it would have no choice but to shut down because it could not guarantee timber supply…

Read the full article from TimberBiz

France unveils new agroforestry plans
As part of the 2nd National Day of Agroforestry, France unveiled new plans for developing ecologically sustainable forestry practices throughout the country. Source: Agri eu. The plan aims to reduce the environmental impact of forestry and to integrate forest management practices into the transition to agroecology.…

Read the full article from TimberBiz

Trees breathing new life into French agriculture
3,000 hectares a year are being converted to agroforestry, boosted by the Common Agricultural Policy which, under pressure from agricultural organisations and unions, has made such land eligible for European subsidies since 2006. Christian Dupraz, a researcher at the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) in Montpellier, has been studying this type of mixed farming for the past 20 years. He believes in the importance of switching to "agro-ecological" systems that do not depend on the petrochemical industry. "The fertility of French land is due to its forests, which have enriched it with carbon…

Read the full article from The Guardian

The Economic Benefits of Native Shelter Belts
The protection of existing native vegetation and the planting of shelterbelts may provide a multitude of productivity and biodiversity benefits for farming industries. Farmers can use this information to more effectively utilise the landscape to potentially increase productivity...
Read the full article from the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network

Renovo Wooden Bike
Stunning wooden mountain bikes made in New Zealand
New Zealand Pine is not something usually associated with mountain bikes – except as a forest venue for some of the country’s main trail networks.

But now Red Stag Timber from Rotorua, home of one of the very best of those trail networks, has combined with Renovo in Oregon, USA, a world leader in wooden bike construction, to build two beautiful new bikes.

“We heard about Renovo from one of our customers,” says Red Stag’s Marketing Manager, Phil Lindsay, “and it started us all thinking about how a wooden bike would be a great way to demonstrate that New Zealand Pine is a 21st century construction material that can match the performance of steel or carbon fibre in a demanding environment like mountain biking.”

The process started over a year ago. Fifty pieces of one metre long timber were selected from standard New Zealand building grade, SG8, and sent to Renovo in November 2010. The plan was to construct three wooden mountain bike frames; a race bike, a training bike, and a test-to-destruction bike.

“The test-to-destruction bike was to make sure the performance of New Zealand Pine was up to Renovo’s standard as they hadn’t worked with the species before,” says Lindsay. During the testing, the concept of a 100% New Zealand Bike had to conform to the realities of mountain biking.

The frames take a bashing from general trail riding and especially when the rider crashes. New Zealand Pine has the stiffness and the strength to stand up to the rigors of mountain biking. However, it doesn’t have the surface hardness - which meant a fair number of dents during trials. “But Renovo know their stuff and had a solution that has really added to the final look and strength of the bikes.” Renovo laminated a layer of Walnut (for elegant good looks) and Hickory (for surface hardness) onto the outside of the main triangle of the frame. They also built the rear triangle entirely out of Hickory. This means the main triangle takes the key loads through the New Zealand Pine with the durability of Hickory taking the knocks.

This clever and beautiful combination has resulted in one of the lightest frames Renovo have built - in spite of it being extra-large size. “If you are going to do this sort of thing you might as well do it right.”

Courtesy of fridayoffcuts

For a great return on investment, try trees
An article by Gregory Mooer, Doctor of Botany at University of Melbourne.
Read the full at The Conversation

Farm forestry is an under-utilised concept
John Woodley believes that Farm Forestry is in its infancy in Australia and following the New Zealand model has the potential to grow and provide a timber resource to the Australian timber industry.
Read the full article from Australian Forests & Timber News

Forestry: safe investment in uncertain times
A stagnant economy in the UK, and the continued crisis in the Eurozone, suggests that woodlands will continue to provide an important diversifier of risk in any investment portfolio for some time to come.
Read the full article from teatronaturale

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