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Harvesting and Processing Costs

Forestry for Biomass  >  Harvesting and Processing Costs

Estimates and examples of forestry supply chain costs

There are significant variations in costs between different forestry operations and methodologies. The outputs and costs below are based on a number of case studies carried out by the Forestry Commission’s Technical Development (formerly the work study unit) over the recent years. They give indicative benchmark values for a certain number of operations in given conditions, but should not be used directly to plan operations, budgets, or negotiate contracts, as there will be great variations in relation to product size, site and crop conditions, number of operators, etc.

The outputs presented below summarise a range of outputs measured in a number of case studies. These outputs are presented per ‘standard hour’; this measurement includes ‘productive worked hours’ as well as ‘non productive worked hours’ (e.g. maintenance, travel to and from site) and rest and personal time of the operator. The costs have been calculated using ‘standard’ costs presented below.

The values in relation to weight at target moisture content have been calculated assuming that: the moisture content of fresh hardwood is 45% wet basis(MCwb) and fresh softwood is 55% MCwb; the target moisture content for fuel is 30% MCwb and the densities of hardwood and softwood are 479 kg/m3 and 410 kg/m3 respectively.

Equipment standard hourly cost, including operator cost (November 2011)

Type of equipmentTypical hourly cost (£/hr)

ATC + trailer




Farm tractor forwarder large


Farm tractor forwarder small


Farm tractor skidder


Large chipper


Medium chipper


Mini forwarder


Pedestrian forwarder


Portable winch


Purpose built forwarder


Purpose built harvester


Purpose built harwarder


Self powered winch


Small chipper


Small terrain chipper


Tractor + cradle


Tractor based harvester


Wire loader


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Felling operations with indicative outputs and costs (1)

Equipment typeOperation typeHarvesting systemOutputs range m3/shrCost range £/m3 felledEquivalent cost range £/t at 30% MCwbNumber of case studies
Chainsaw CoppicingAll systems 0.7-1.35 14.8-29.9 21.6-43.7 4
Broadleaves thinningShortwood 0.7-1.5 13.3-29.0 19.4-42.4 6
Broadleaves thinningPole length 1.3-2.5 8-15.6 11.7-22.8 4
Pre-commercial thinningWhole tree0.5-0.6 31.7-42.6 46.3-62.3 1
Tractor based harvestedCoppicingShortwood 1.67-2.0 27.5-32.9 40.2-48.1 1
Purpose built harvesterCoppicingShortwood 6.77 8.9 15.2 1

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Felling operations indicative outputs and costs (2)

The following costs and outputs are for a 100-125m extraction distance except portable winch (which is around 20m distance).
The costs for whole tree and pole length systems include conversion.

Equipment typeOperation typeHarvesting systemOutputs range m3 /shrCost range £/m3 felledEquivalent cost range £/t at 30% MCwb Number of case studies
ATC + trailer Thinnings Shortwood /pole length 0.60-3.50 11.9-55.8 17.3-81.5 3
Farm tractor forwarder (large) Coppicing, thinnings Shortwood 2.44-4.18 13.2- 22.5 19.2-32.9 4
Farm tractor forwarder (small) Coppicing, thinnings and residues Shortwood 1.22-5.85 8.5-41.0 12.5-59.9 9
Farm tractor skidder Coppicing, thinnings and residues Pole length/whole tree 1.60-3.02 17.5-30.7 25.6-44.9 6
Mini-forwarder Coppicing, thinnings Shortwood 0.64-4.17 9.6-62.5 14.0-91.3 6
Pedestrian forwarder Thinnings Shortwood 1.35-1.70 14.7-18.5 21.5-27.1 1
Portable winch Coppicing Shortwood/pole length 0.40-3.50 10.0-87.5 14.6-127.9 3
Purpose built forwarder Coppicing Shortwood 2.47-7.04 7.8-22.3 11.4-32.5 4
Tractor + cradle Thinnings Shortwood 1.19 29.4 43.0 1
Wire loader Thinnings Shortwood 0.6-5.05 5.0-39.1 7.2-57.1 5
Cableway systems No recent case studies have been carried out on cableway systems . Costs are extremely variable depending on extraction distance, product size and density, and equipment used.

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Integrated harvesting indicative outputs and costs

Equipment type Operation type Harvesting system Outputs range m3/shr Cost range £/m3 felled Equivalent cost range £/t at 30% MCwb Number of case studies
Harwarder Scrub clearance Whole tree 0.82 67.1 98.1 1
Terrain chipper (small) Coppicing - 1.92-2.24 11.2-13.0 16.4-19.0 2
Crownwood - 0.88 28.4 41.5 1

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Roadside chipping indicative outputs and costs

A factor of 2.7 for the volume of woodchips : roundwood has been used based on previous case studies. It has been assumed that roundwood is chipped at target moisture content 30% wet basis.

Equipment type Outputs range m3 solid timber/shr Equivalent output range m3 woodchips/shr Equivalent cost range £/m3 woodchips Equivalent cost range £/t woodchips at 30% MCwb Number of case studies
Small chipper
(15 to 25cm intake)
2.37-5.69 6.40-15.36 1.63-3.91 6.42-15.42 25
Medium chipper
(25 to 40cm intake)
2.41-8.53 6.51-23.03 1.52-5.38 7.01-21.22 15
Large chipper
(intake larger than 40cm)
12.39-21.10 33.45-56.97 0.97-1.64 4.45-7.58 4

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Forestry for Woodfuel and Timber


  1. Introduction and benefits of woodland management
  2. Fuel from woodland
  3. Buying a woodland
  4. Support for woodland management
  5. Grants, regulations and certification
  6. Woodland health
  7. Forest management plans
  8. Silviculture
  9. Planting Woodland
  10. Managing small areas and volumes
  11. Harvesting
  12. Fuel Processing
  13. Harvesting and Processing Costs
  14. Buying and selling wood
  15. Further Reading
  16. Training