Forestry can often seem mysterious to farmers and landowners who are more familiar with agricultural crops and livestock.

The storms of winter 2021/22 have thrown this into sharp focus, particularly in the worst affected areas down the East coast of Scotland and into the North of England. Faced with, what in many cases was woodland devastation, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Even in less climatically challenging times, 'what to do' with woodland and plantations is a question often pushed to the bottom of the action list by busy farmers.

What Storm Arwen and its successors did show, was that there are any number of contractors out there – with an array of different types of machinery, from chainsaws to excavators to specialist timber harvesters – with the ability to fell or log trees. There are almost as many agents and consultants offering advice on 'woodland management' and looking to charge a healthy fee for providing it.

To their personal cost, many farmers and landowners have found out that the majority of businesses, consultants and contractors offering forestry services are simply providing links in the chain. Confusion, and profit stripping costs, can often arise when the farmer is then tasked with sourcing and piecing together the other links.

At the opposite end of the scale from the one-man-and-his-saw approach, are the large multi-faceted forestry businesses involved in everything from establishing new plantations to sawmilling. Farmers and landowners with smaller scale woodlands may perceive that such forestry giants are not for them. However, working with a larger specialist firm, able to handle every link in the chain might often make the best financial and environmental sense.

Making that case, David Symons, managing director of Carlisle-based Euroforest, said: “Euroforest was established in the early 1990’s and has grown into a group of forestry related companies working in timber harvesting, marketing of timber, forest management, and timber haulage. Euroforest can provide every link in the service chain to landowners and forest owners.

“We sell 2.1 million tonnes of wood a year in the UK and Ireland, which equates to about 15% of the timber harvesting market in the UK and 10% of the current market in Ireland. The nature of our business varies hugely across the country. In Scotland and Northern England our work often comprises of large plantation harvesting of softwood where contracts routinely exceed 15,000 tonnes. That said, our work in lowland Scotland often has parallels with the type of business we undertake in the South of England, where contracts frequently involve smaller sites of mixed species in diverse woodlands and landscapes for estates, and small forest owners.

“I use these examples to demonstrate that Euroforest and its group of businesses are willing and able to work in forests of all different types and scale. What we bring to our clients is service and expertise across all disciplines and economies of scale, particularly in terms of seeking best value for timber – irrespective of the size of the felling site and tonnage.”

Mr Symond's pointed out that Euroforest hasd a varied client base, from state forestry companies and major investment houses at one end of the scale, to farmers and small forest owners who sell wood once in a lifetime at the other.

"No matter the size of the client, our quest is always to seek best value and optimum financial returns," he said. “I would encourage anyone who requires woodland management or timber harvesting to speak to us in the first instance, as we can take a lot of the mystique and hassle out of the process. We can organise the paperwork side of felling licences or woodland grant schemes. We can bring in the harvesting and extraction machinery – even for the most difficult sites. We can then sell and transport the timber to the market in a timely fashion. We support the client the whole way through the process to ensure they get their woodlands harvested and restocked, whilst achieving the highest value for money.”

He suggested that too many farmers ended up in the hands of harvesting contractors who are only out to cut timber the easiest and fastest way for their own benefit, not necessarily the clients: “Farmers will be familiar with the concept of using the right machine for the job, and also the benefits of using precision technology to minimise costs and maximise returns. At Euroforest our in-house harvesting division, Blacklock Harvesting, utilises the very latest harvester software to ensure we cut logs to the optimum specifications for the highest value markets. There is no good cutting timber into pulp spec logs when the best paying outlet is construction timber!

“Likewise, when it comes to extraction and transport of timber, we can bring in the right, specialist machinery to suit specific sites. Just as in agriculture, there is a need to ensure minimum impact on soils, water courses, tracks, and rural roads. Our lorries are carefully managed to minimise impact on fragile roads, and many are fitted with central tyre inflation systems.

“The aftermath of the past winter storms has thrown forestry into the spotlight for many farmers and landowner," he added. "Estimates suggest there are up to five million tonnes of windblown timber to deal with. Such windblown timber creates a number of challenges, from the practicalities of safe harvesting to negotiating strong returns for clients in a temporarily flooded market. Because of the geographic nature of the storm damage and distance from the main timber buyers, Euroforest can offer and is currently utilising shipping to move timber from Scotland to southern England.”

“Logically, the first port of call for those affected with windblown timber was their trusted land agent or local agricultural contractors. After these damaging events, the calls from landowners saw lots of different people scrabbling around, trying to create solutions in order to deal with the fallen trees. Now, months down the line, we see timber still lying on the ground losing value, or stacked at roadsides losing value. Ultimately farmers in this situation could end up with bills for forestry operations instead of a return for their timber. These are really good examples of why I would encourage farmers and landowners to speak to a company like Euroforest in the first instance; ultimately our efficient one-stop shop approach leads to the best returns.”

This article originally appeared in our sister title, the Scottish Farmer