Growers cash in on peak prices

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Bob GarnantCountryman

Woolgrowers who spread their clip offerings to take advantage of upward price swings were rewarded last week when large increases occurred at the beginning of the week.

Rod Norrish, of Angenup stud, Kojonup, was at the Western Wool Centre at Bibra Lake as were many other producers who were interested in how high the market would go.

Elders WA wool export manager Stewart Raine said the Western Market Indicator was up by 58c per kilogram clean at 1183c on Wednesday, but fell on Thursday to close at 1118c.

“The market may be somewhat sensitive as it trades at its highest level since the peak of the late 1980s, ” Mr Raine said.

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The Eastern Market Indicator peaked at 1242c on Wednesday, its highest since 1988, but closed lower at 1191c at the week’s end.

“We do expect fine wools to continue to trade near recent levels, due to short supply, ” Mr Raine said.

Mr Norrish was surprised by the swiftness of the lift from the previous sale week as it jumped 200c/kg.

Last week he sold 103 bales — a third of his clip — which averaged 19 microns at an average price of 1033c/kg greasy, or $1978 per bale.

“That compares to getting $1400/bale in early December, ” he said.

The Angenup clip reached a top-price of 1400c/kg greasy for a line of five bales of 17.4 micron hogget fleece.

“The recent price rises are unheard of, ” Mr Norrish said.

While Mr Norrish was very pleased with the yield and the stylish outcome of the farm’s September/October shearing, drought conditions could take a toll on next year’s clip.

“We are in unknown country; I have never seen it so dry, ” he said.

The Norrish family runs 7000 Merino ewes which support three families.

“While we hold a conservative amount of feed, our stocking rates are above average for the district, ” Mr Norrish said.

“We started feeding sheep back in November which was a first for us.

“The ewes are holding condition, but a recent 35mm of rain didn’t help.”

Mr Norrish said they had to sell all 2000 of their June drop wether lambs last year which recorded a 95 per cent weaning rate.

“Usually we sell as one-year-olds off-shears, ” he said.

While wool and sheep prices are bringing optimism back into the industry, Mr Norrish said it would be the farmers who best managed their ewe flocks who would be the ones to succeed.

“We make sure a weekly visual inspection is carried out and if any weight loss is suspected, we up the feed.”

Even with the talk of one million sheep going across the border, Mr Norrish said he was confident there was still plenty of ewe numbers in the South West.

“WA is well placed to recover from any reduced numbers, but we desperately need a good break for the upcoming season, ” he said.

Wheatbelt wool producer Shane Edwards watched his five bales of 17.2 micron 2007 shorn wool sell last week for 1354c/kg greasy.

West Coast Wools manager Brad Faithfull said that equated to $2355 a bale. “Although the last five years have been tough, we are still committed to wool production here in the Wheatbelt, ” Mr Edwards said.

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