It pays to be thin but know when the trees are likely to be ready
Published 23/11/2010 | 05:00
Many farmers who planted part of their farm 10 or 15 years ago are now wondering how best to earn a few bob more from the trees.
The premiums will end at year 20 but if they want to make the most of their woods then they need to get in early and start thinning.
Thinning pays, regardless of species. The main difference is in the timing of the operation. A good, well-grown crop of Sitka spruce could be ready for first thinning at year 14. Ash and Sycamore are best judged by height and a good guide is to thin when they reach 8m.
Beech and Oak, being slow growing, need longer than others and do not suffer from overcrowding to the same extent as light-demanding species such as Ash. Other than putting in access paths and depending on growth rates, they could probably be left alone until year 20.
If broadleaves are performing badly, it should be possible to thin hard and gradually introduce another species that would suit the site better.
In Ash plantations a good guide is to reach up, and if the nearest branch is dead and snaps off easily then it is time to thin. If the branch still has leaf growth then sufficient light is getting through and thinning should be delayed. Your Teagasc forestry advisor can help with advice on this and all other management requirements.
Virtually all woodland work can be carried out without the need for employing contractors and by using equipment that is already available on most farms.