Superfine path proves saviour for Bradshaws

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Bob GarnantCountryman

There has been a lot of faith put into the wool industry over the past 100 years at the Bradshaw family’s Woodlands farm at Tambellup.

The 1906 homestead is now occupied by Andrew and Bronwyn Bradshaw and their children Clare and Lachlan, while their oldest daughter, Tiffany, is attending school in Albany.

The true value of wool hit home during the big dry of last year when they recorded their worst crop yield ever.

“We were near half our average rainfall of 350 to 400mm, ” Andrew said.

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The fourth-generation Merino breeder said that when the crops failed, it was the wool that shone through and paid the bills.

“Our March shorn clip reached a top of 1645 cents greasy, ” he said.

The three-bale 15.5 micron line was sold at 2876 cents/kg clean.

This was one of the best clean prices for WA’s 2010–11 season.

Their overall, sweep-the-floor, 90- bale offering averaged 1297c/kg greasy.

“It was our superfine wool product that carried the day, ” Andrew said.

The decision to reduce the micron of the flock was made by Andrew’s father, Tom, some 20 years ago.

“We were impressed with the onset of The Grange stud’s breeding direction and began using rams from the stud to improve on wool quality, ” Andrew said.

The Bradshaws now run some 3300 ewes using Misty Hills bloodlines and their farm turns off 100 bales of wool annually with an average micron of 16.7.

Primaries wool manager Tim Chapman said the Bradshaws concentrated on producing stylish wool with length.

“It is a credit to their success in maintaining excellent strength in their wool clip, ” he said.

“We focus our sheep classing on wool quality and body size, ” Andrew said.

As a young lad, Andrew learnt to shear and ever since he has kept a close eye on his family’s own flock by working side-by-side with the shed hands during the annual March shearing.

“It is quite good to actually get my hands into the quality wool that we are growing, ” he said.

“I can feel how soft the wool is during the shearing process.

“Dad also is involved and classes the wool clip.”

Because of last year’s very dry season, Andrew said the wool was averaging a low 56 per cent yield and was quite dusty.

“During a normal season, yield is up around 64 per cent, ” he said.

He said the desperation of the record dry season also involved selling 1000 ewes to the local market and half of the July-August drop lambs were sold to the eastern states.

The farm’s older ewes are used in a cross-breeding program to Suffolk rams and Andrew said he was impressed with the longevity of the ewes.

“Our goal, if the wool prices remain high, is to crop less and increase the size of the flock, ” he said.

“We feel superfine wool will continue to be in short supply which will help us develop higher returns per hectare.”

Andrew is also interested in improving the ecological balance of the farm that his great-grandfather began.

“We believe the type of Merino sheep we are running are efficient for the sustainability of our land.”

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