ISSUED: 6-55
James A. Newman

A source of income for many a Kentucky woodland owner is the occasional sale of trees for sawtimber. But knowing when to sell his trees is important for an owner if he is to realize maximum returns.
Woodland owners and many sawmill operators often consider hardwood trees 12 and 14 inches in diameter (breast height) to be merchantable for sawtimber. However, a glance at the chart on the reverse side will show that this is poor business for the landowner. This chart compares returns that an owner could expect from various-sized trees, assuming that he sold his timber on the stump for $60 per thousand board feet (Doyle Scale), and that trees of all diameters had two 16-foot sawlogs and good form.
If logs rather than standing trees are sold, an even greater difference in value between the large and small trees is apparent. If a timber owner received $110 per thousand board feet (Doyle Scale), his returns from the various-sized trees would be as follows:
Tree Diameter
Log Value Per Tree*
12 5.17
14 9.02
16 13.75
18 19.80
20 26.40
22 34.10
24 44.00
*Sales by the International 1/4-inch Scale will give considerably higher volumes, but prices offered by buyers are usually adjusted so that dollar values remain about the same.

The differences in value between 12-inch and larger trees will normally be much greater than shown. Seldom will a 12-inch hardwood tree have more than one 16-foot log. Increased merchantable length normally develops along with increased tree diameter. Buyers can afford, and are willing, to pay more per thousand board feet for good large logs and trees, than for good small ones.
On any specific sale, individual tree values may vary markedly from the values given in this publication because of tree defects, differences in species, merchantable length and sale price. For information on the market prices of forest products, ask your county Extension agent or local forester for a copy of the annual report FOR-B, "Kentucky Forest Utilization Survey."
Growth studies in the central states show that average sawtimber-sized trees are increasing a little more than 2 inches in diameter every 10 years. But vigorous, healthy trees on good sites are growing much faster, often as much as 4 inches in 10 years. This means that fast-growing 12-inch trees, now worth about $2.35 apiece, will more than double in value in 10 years. In contrast, it usually takes at least 35 or 40 years to grow the tree to the 12- or 14-inch diameter size.
 This 14-inch, 40-year-old tree,
worth only about $4.00 today...
          ...on good sites can be an 18-inch tree
worth $9.00 or more in 10-15 years. Figure 1.

From these facts it is evident that timber owners, when making sawtimber sales, can increase their income by keeping the vigorous, fast-growing well-formed 12- and 14-inch trees. These trees may be recognized by their large, dense, well-balanced crowns; sound, straight trunks; and general appearance of health and vigor, compared with other trees of the same size. Owners can make a start at managing their woodlands and increasing their timber income by selling only the large, mature trees (18-inch diameter and larger) which are ready for harvest and those smaller trees which are not likely to make good growth in the future because of poor form, rot or other defects.

Comparative stumpage value of trees of different diameters. Dotted lines indicate sawlogs. Figure 2.

The discussion and charts thus far cover only the increase in value due to an increase in the number of board feet through tree growth. Quality and value also increase with diameter size especially where hardwoods are growing on good sites because the yield in high-grade, high-value lumber increases sharply as logs increase in size.
For example, trees 14 inches in diameter even on good sites will yield mostly grade 3 logs and below because of their size, but when these trees are 18 inches in diameter almost half of the logs will be grades 1 and 2. And when these same trees become 22 inches in diameter almost 75 percent of the volume is in grade 1 logs. The dollar value will vary widely by species based on current log prices in the state, but a realistic stumpage value for red oak is $30 per thousand board feet for grade 3, $90 for grade 2, and $150 for grade 1 logs. Using these values, the potential increase due to quality is spectacular:
14" trees       $ 37.20 per thousand bd. ft.
18" trees $ 80.40 per thousand bd. ft.
22" trees $124.20 per thousand bd. ft.