Tools help growers capture premiums

Countryman

The resurgence in wool prices and strong meat prices presents an opportunity to take advantage of savvy ewe selection.

Graziers can capture micron premiums through using a multi-purpose tool that can be downloaded from the web — the on-farm fibre measurement (OFFM) calculator.

By entering basic information on flock structure and average (adult) fibre diameter, the OFFM calculator shows the likely profit from altering bale lines and selection in four areas of production: hogget clip preparation, adult clip preparation, ewe selection and wether selection.

The returns are shown in graphs running over a 10-year period.

Developed by Industry and Investment NSW specialists Kevin Atkins, Jess Richards and Steve Semple, with support and funding from the Sheep CRC and Australian Wool Innovation, the OFFM calculator was widely and profitably used after it was first launched to industry.

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said now was an ideal time to dust it off. “Woolgrowers using fibre measurements can identify the most valuable wool-cutting sheep and adjust flock structure to improve profitability, ” he said.

Professor Rowe’s rationale was that with the very large price spread between different micron wools — for example, there is currently a price differential of $3.46/kg for each micron between 17µ and 20µ — it easily pays for growers to identify and select low-micron sheep and carefully manage them to optimise wool cut and quality.

He said this level of price differential compared with the $1.24/kg for each micron between 17 and 20 microns in June 2010 — a level that had not changed for around 18 months since the effects of the global financial crisis hit the wool market in early 2009.

The OFFM calculator showed that additional profit from selecting ewe replacements on fibre diameter in a 2000-head self-replacing flock could be very significant.

At current prices and micron premiums, the benefit over a 10-year period for applying micron test information and selecting ewe hoggets for lifetime wool production could be close to $100,000 for a flock of 2000 ewes.

This was nearly four times the value of on-farm fibre testing based on prices around June 2010.

As prices rise and the shape of price curves change diameter, testing may become a more attractive tool to aid sheep selection and producers should revisit their decision to do clip preparation from time to time in the light of current prices.

Currently, if growers have a 21 micron flock, clip preparation could yield $9.46 per year for adults and $3.59 per hogget, which includes a payment of $1 for the test.

Even where there is not a large benefit coming from clip preparation, so long as it covers the testing cost, the information becomes available free of charge to drive selection decisions.

In addition to OFFM, Sheep CRC tool the Simultaneous Assortment program can be used to help draft ewes for selectively mating to fine-wool Merino or terminal sires on the basis of micron and body weight data.

Bill Murray, of Exact Livestock NSW, said clients were using these tools for clever ewe selection.

“With wool and meat prices high, most Merino breeders are genuinely producing two valuable commodities and often have part of their flock as self-replacing and part mated to terminal sires,” he said.

“Fibre measurement and a tool such as Simultaneous Assortment allow them to identify which flock their ewes will be most profitable in to really improve the bottom line.”

There are a several ways of testing fibre diameter including OFDA, FleeceScan and mid-side samples sent to test laboratories. The cost of testing ranges between $1.00 and $1.50 and is taken into account when estimating the benefits of using micron data in the OFFM calculator.

''The OFFM calculator and Simultaneous Assortment tools can be downloaded:

www.sheepcrc.org.au/

industry-tools-and-information/

precision-sheep-management/

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