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Thread: 120 cord of useless wood!

  1. #1

    120 cord of useless wood!

    That's what I got now.

    For a long time I have been contemplating what to do with those high bred hack we planted back in 1994 and 1996. They are a very fast growing tree and after 12 years they have gotten to be pretty big, about a foot in diamter and 50 feet tall. As some of you know, they got hit with a bark beetle infestation and have slowly started dying. About 3-4 trees per acre per year.

    What to do?

    After a bit of stalling I finally decided to log them off to make way for some sheep. That leaves me with 12 acres of trees to clear cut. Its tedius work to say the least. Small trees take forever to add up, and yet the more I cut, the less I seem to get done. I have cut about 1/3 of an acre, and so far got about 3 cord of wood. That's about 10 cord to the acre, so naturally I am looking at about 120 cord of wood to harvest. At the present rate, I am going to retire I think by the time all 12 acres are cut.

    For those that enjoy facts and figures, here are the numbers crunched up. Since they are hybrid hack, a softwood tree that has only one use...pulp to make paper. The current price is 60 bucks a cord, so that equates to about 600 dollars per acre, or 7200 dollars for all 12 acres. The trees were given to me 12 years ago in a program from a local paper company, so the actual cost of planting was (for computing purposes) essentially free. I don't factor in taxes either because it matters little if they are growing trees or being hayed, I would have to pay property taxes anyway. So at 12 years of growth, I made about 50 dollars per acre.

    Lambs are getting about $238 bucks a piece right now in the 5-6 month old range. At a stocking rate of about 10 sheep per the acre, 10 mature ewes could produce 20 lambs a year since they typically birth with twins. Assuming that 5 ewe lambs are kept to keep the flock refreshed, that gives about 15 lambs per the acre to sell per year. Since the time line is short, but the cost of raising lambs is higher then trees, I figure about 100 bucks profit per lamb. That's 1500 dollars per the acre, or $1450 bucks more then what the trees are producing. Yep time to cut. Its also time to get into sheep. I figure if I can raise and sell just 30 lambs per year, I can pay for my property taxes.

    Incidentally there is 100 acres in high grade fields. This is prime farmland with great soil (2e soil) with an even split between hay ground and corn ground. The hay ground produces a whopping 2800 pounds of high protein grass per acre per harvest (3 crops per year) and the corn is getting a staggering 19 tons per the acre. Because of an old gentleman's agreement between my grandfather and another farmer, the current lease is 6 dollars per acre!!

    So here are some pictures. The first picture of planted trees giving me 50 dollars per acre per year. The second is of a 28 acre high grade field giving me 6 dollars per acre, and finally a dumb, wooly sheep that can produce $1500 dollars per acre. Looking at the pictures it hard to believe money wise that's how it shakes out.





    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    2,668
    Thanks Travis. That was very interesting and informative. Us city-dwelling folks would never think about trees, sheeps, acres and gentleman's agreement in the same context.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Posts
    11,833
    Very interesting.
    That old "gentleman's agreement" seems ready for updating. If the tenant is really a gentleman, he will understand that costs must keep up with the times. Just my unsolicited IMHO.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    New Springfield OH
    Posts
    806
    Dude, your doing it wrong. Bull dozer and a big fire. you can clear that 12 acres in no time!!

    19 ton to the acre? I assume they are chopping silage then?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    North West Indiana
    Posts
    6,098
    Why worry about cutting all of the trees immediately? The sheep will enjoy the shade as well as wind break. Cut as they die or clear by section or width of a row. Gentlemen also should be aware of modern times/costs and I would think the agreement is void if Grandpa is deceased.
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  6. #6
    Yeah that gentleman's agreement is a bit dated, but that's how things stand. Its actually less than 6 bucks an acre because I have yet to get paid anything for it. Last year I bugged him about the money, and he sent my cousin some money but I didn't get any. My cousin was supposed to keep some and give me some as this guy leases the whole farm, and yet my cousin owns part of the fields and I own part of the fields. What I need to do is tell the farmer to pay us separately.

    Still its cheaper to have them use it, and farm it right and for nothing, then it is for me to kick them loose and have no one to farm it. If no one farmed it, I would lose my USDA "agricultural producer" entitlement and lose a lot of tax shelter from property taxes. Plus I drink milk and ultimately those 100 acres are putting an additional 25,000 gallons of milk on the national food chain per year. It certainly is productive, even if its not lucrative.

    Ultimately I might grow my sheep farm so that I need all 112 acres, but for now getting enough sheep to take care of 12 acres (currently in trees) will be enough. (120 ewes) To efficiently use 112 acres would mean over a 1000 ewes, and that is way too many.

    Now I could hay it, and roughly speaking that would get me 11,200 bales. At 3 bucks a bale, I would make roughly 33 grand, but that is only if I could sell that many bales of hay (doubtful) and that is before all the hay equipment is figured in. For now the sheep should work, and letting those farmers use it, and getting free hay to feed my sheep in winter, should give me low-overhead sheep. As for the sheep itself, they were chosen for two reasons: sheep don't need barns (wool) which I don't have on this farm, and because lamb produces more money per pound of meat then beef. In short, sheep fit the sheep instead of spending money for the farm to accommodate the livestock.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Shively View Post
    Why worry about cutting all of the trees immediately? The sheep will enjoy the shade as well as wind break. Cut as they die or clear by section or width of a row. Gentlemen also should be aware of modern times/costs and I would think the agreement is void if Grandpa is deceased.
    I thought about leaving the trees, but its shading out the ground so much that the grass is starting to get pretty sparse. Another factor is the bark which would rub off and get in the wool of the sheep, ruining it. Wool has some value, though its not going to offset raising the sheep. In other words, the money is in the meat, and the wool is just extra, along with sheepskins. If I cut the trees I can gain some grass to graze on, and it should spring back without needing to be reseeded.

    As for the gentleman's agreement, it doesn't work like that here. The agreements stay within the families not the people. I could probably insist upon change, but for now its easier to let things go as is. Ultimately I will get free hay without having to buy expensive equipment and stuff, so its kind of a trade off. I can let them use my land free, (or at a cheap rate) in exchange for free hay. That will enable me to raise cheap sheep. If we do it right, no feelings get hurt and we both can continue farming which both families have done together for generations.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Mickley View Post
    Dude, your doing it wrong. Bull dozer and a big fire. you can clear that 12 acres in no time!!

    19 ton to the acre? I assume they are chopping silage then?
    Yes, chopping it.

    As for the bulldozer, you missed the point. No bulldozer needed, which is an expensive option at 4 bucks a gallon for diesel fuel right now. I can cut the trees using the money for additional sheep and have grass for my sheep to graze on. They graze around the stumps as they rot down. In a few years we can come into these fields and use the land plow on that 400 hp tractor,to get those rotted stumps out of the ground, something my 25 hp kubota cannot do. We would have to plow the ground even after bulldozing the stumps, so I am just using time to do the dirty work.

    Its a slower method to get those 12 acres back into high production hay fields, but ultimately this is the cheapest way to do it I think.

    PS: Just explaining my mind-set on how and why I am going about doing what I am doing. I am not arguing with anyone, just kind of explaining how my though process works. Now keep in mind the only goal here is to make the land the most productive, and to pay for the property taxes. Making excess money is not actually the goal.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    North West Indiana
    Posts
    6,098
    Throw a few goats in, angora, come to mind. They will go for woody plants first, thorns, raspberry bushes, TREE BARK, and then they will girdle all of the trees as high as they can stand on the trunk. Then you can cut at a more suitable pace.
    Hay, $3.00 a bale??? Either they are very small bales or poor quality, here and nationally the hay price is near or above $240.00 a ton. Small squares I haven't seen below $4.50 for a year now. Large rounds (500-600#) $50-$65 each you pick up at their farm.
    Gentlemen's agreement, I swear this is my last thought on this. They broke it when they failed to pay. My goodness, you could grass feed calves from spring to fall and make more than that per acre.
    Good luck.
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  10. #10
    You know you are the second person to tell me that today. You, and then the NCRS Agent. He was telling me that most sheep people won't get into goats because its a "mental thing" not a marketing or management thing, and I completely agree.

    I'm just not into goats. I am not saying they are bad or anything. They have their place, but for me I just have no interest in them really so an operation like that would tank in a short time.

    You are probably right, the gentleman's agreement is over without pay, but ultimately it works out alright. They don't pay me for it, but they do pay for it...by putting a lot of money into the farm. I asked him this Spring what was needed on this farm as far as the soil tests went, and he said "not a thing." Now I just need to do my part to expand that production from 100 acres to 112 acres and I think sheep can do that.

    The one good thing about having those farmers farm my land though, regardless of payment, is that they do a great job. They do crop rotations, and they apply cow manure at the right amounts, and they add lime and synthetic fertilizers as needed, so this farm is truly productive. I would not have that if they were not here. I would not have access to the cow manure, to the synthetic fertilizers or even the great equipment that they have without them.

    As for the calves, I am not sure that is true here. The problem is beef is pretty much dirt cheap here. I had an offer last week to buy 120 pounds of grass fed, all organic beef for $2.38 a pound. It's a good price, but I am picky on my cuts that I like, and I did not want to pay that much money for hamburg, so I opted out of the deal. Lamb here will easily get 4 bucks a pound, and 5-7 if its grass fed or organic. Lamb cuts at the local farmers market was 14 bucks a pound, while the beef was $5.

    I was initially going to go with beef, but after putting a sharp pencil to things, sheep worked out better. I am not trying to turn this into a lamb vs beef thing...they each have their place, but for me the sheep just worked out better as far as return on investment.

    Ultimately the sheep are dovetailing into the rest of the farm nicely. They say a farmer should have 3 operations going at one time. For me that is logging, a long term crop lease, and now sheep. If any one market declines, you can look to the other two to kind of help you stay on an even keel. What concerned me originally was that because I did not receive money from the farmer that rents the fields, I would not qualify for start up funding for the sheep operation. That is not the case though. Because of the quality and quantities of the crops that this farm produces, I am actually entitled to quite a bit as its based on the VALUE of the crop and not what I am receiving for payment for it. In essence, I am not a new farm, I am a farm looking to expand operations and that's something the USDA really wants to do.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

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