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A woody way to make money

Eliza Rogers, Tuesday October 15, 2013 - 11:49 EDT
Audience submitted image
A large portion of the state's saw logs come from ironbark and spotted gum forests in southern parts of Queensland. (Photo reproduced with permission - Bimblebox Nature Refuge website) - Audience submitted

Struggling cattle producers in south-east Queensland are turning to the embattled timber industry to make ends meet.

About half of Queensland's saw logs come from ironbark and spotted gum forests on private grazing country in the south-east, but the resource is under-utilised and mostly badly-managed.

Over the last few years, the national timber and milling industries have been riddled with setbacks - prices have dived, investment schemes have failed, and sawmills have folded like dominoes.

In Queensland, the Bligh government locked up state forests, and stakeholders have focused their attention on private forestry to keep the industry alive.

And now, tinder-dry weather and depressed cattle prices are making that forestry even more attractive as a way to diversify income.

Most landholders with cattle and trees centre their efforts on stock, but Bill Schulke from Private Forestry Services Queensland says they should be managed together.

"It's a bit of a dual enterprise, in that the timber game is the superannuation payout, and the cattle pay the bills. I'm trying to get landholders to think about the potential of their native resource in providing income, and how to integrate that with their grazing enterprises."

First and foremost, he says landholders must invest in forest thinning to improve growth and quality.

Trevor Gleeson runs 200 head of cattle near Monto, and hard times are making him turn his eye to a stand of trees on his property.

He went to the field day to learn how to best harvest and market the timber.

"I do have a stand of resource timber there that has potential. I'd like to think that I've got potential electricity poles for sale to Ergon, that's where the good value is, but as I'm learning today, they've got to be good."

Scott Pershouse is a timber cutter in Gayndah.

He wants to see better-managed timber pass through the mill, because he says low-grade wood makes processing difficult, and damages business confidence.

"You get poorer quality timber ... and that then flows onto the sawmill where it's more difficult for them to extract the product and supply the demands of the public with the product that they're after."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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