It is estimated that 731 million board feet of hardwood logs were harvested in Kentucky during 2018. This harvest volume represents a small decline from 2017 harvesting levels and remains less than half the volume grown. Overall, statewide timber prices decreased by approximately 3% for all grades and species combined. Table 2 shows the pricing of various commercially important species during 2018 and how those prices changed from the first half to the last half of the year.
Ash pricing for high quality sawlogs decreased 4.6% from the beginning of 2018 due to decreased export demand and difficulty in finding good ash undamaged by ambrosia beetles. Cherry logs dropped in value across all log qualities although occasional markets did pop up regionally with increased pricing. Statewide, high quality cherry sawlogs decreased in value 17.86%, and medium quality decreased 25%. Chestnut oak has experienced growing demand and pricing since the end of 2016. 

There was a statewide decrease of 7.08% for high quality logs from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2018, medium quality chestnut oak sawlogs increased 8.54% and low quality sawlogs increased 34.51%. Hickory dropped in value across all log qualities. Sugar maple remained strong through 2018, with only minor price reductions in a few regions and larger reductions for lower grade sawlogs. Red oak experienced significant price decreases from the end of 2017 through 2018. Much of this is tied directly to decreased demand and pricing from Chinese export markets. High quality red maple logs held relatively firm, but medium and low quality log prices dropped 8-9%. Walnut log pricing was mixed with high quality steady, medium quality decreasing 19.4%, and low quality walnut logs prices nearly doubled. White oak continues to remain strong due to the multiple uses and demands of the species as well as strong stave and bourbon demand. High and medium quality yellow-poplar logs remained relatively flat but low quality logs dropped more than 10% in value.

Table 2. Kentucky Delivered Log Prices in 2018

Barrel Stave Logs
Stave logs are generally high quality white oak logs that are used to make barrels for the distilling industry. Competition for these logs continues to grow, increasing the value of high and medium quality white oak logs as well. In order to meet this growing demand a number of new log yards have been established to receive stave logs. All markets are averaging over $1.30/bdft (Figure 6 & 7) with some logs worth much less and some worth much more. The market for white oak logs is expected to remain strong in 2019.

   

   

Railroad Tie Logs
Railroad tie logs remain another important timber product in Kentucky. Hardwood railroad tie logs have experienced strong markets over the last year and a half. Statewide, oak tie logs have averaged a 12% increase in value from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018, and non-oak hardwood tie logs have averaged an 11% increase (Figure 8). The statewide average for oak tie logs is $451/MBF, and for non-oak tie logs it is $369/MBF. While there is a strong overall upward trend in prices, there has been significant variation across the state and from month to month. Normal maintenance and replacement of tie logs are ongoing, but an additional five million ties are currently being replaced. Tie log demand and strong pricing are anticipated through 2019 due to increased replacement of railroad ties.

Delivered Stave Logs Prices in  Kentucky 2011-2018 by Quarter ($/MBF)

 Average Delivered Stave Log Price by Region

   

Delivered Tie Logs Prices  in Kentucky 2011-2018 by Quarter ($/MBF)