Crossbred wool prices a bonus for farmers

Cally Dupe and Bob GarnantCountryman
Dandaragan sheep farmer Hugh Roberts is worried he will run out of feed stock for his ewes and lambs within a couple of weeks due to the dry winter.
Camera IconDandaragan sheep farmer Hugh Roberts is worried he will run out of feed stock for his ewes and lambs within a couple of weeks due to the dry winter. Credit: Steve Ferrier

Chinese fashionistas’ penchant for fake fur coats is paying dividends for producers such as Hugh Roberts, who is fetching his best crossbred wool prices in years.

Mr Roberts and his wife Anna and their sons Lachlan and Angus run a 75 per cent, 25 per cent livestock and cropping program on their 3900ha Yandan farm.

They received a farm best average price of 960c/kg greasy when they sold 90 bales of 24.5 micron-average crossbred wool in October, through Dyson Jones.

“We are receiving our best prices for our 25 micron crossbred wool which is contributing to a more viable lamb program,” he said.

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“I am optimistic our Merino and crossbred wool will continue to hold their values with the limited supply of wool available.”

The Roberts family produce about 90 bales of crossbred wool from their 3200 Border Leicester-cross Merino ewes each year.

Their main crossbred game is producing five-month-old lambs for V&V Walsh, but the good wool prices are paying dividends.

They also produce about 200 bales of Merino wool a year, from a 5500-head, self-replacing flock.

While Australian wool prices have softened from the record-breaking prices of the past few months, demand for crossbred wool has remained strong.

At recent wool auctions, Merino prices have fallen and crossbred prices have surged to 25-year highs.

Mecardo analyst Andrew Woods said Australian crossbred prices, as opposed to the broader New Zealand categories, were trading at or close to record levels since late last year.

“The 28 micron price guide recently finished at 1204 cents,” he said. “It’s not so long ago that this would have been a good price for medium and broad Merino wool.”

Mr Woods said crossbred wool prices had a “great run in price during 2015”, which was a “cyclical low for Merino wool prices”, 28 micron wools fell heavily in early 2017.

“In 2017, the 28 micron wools started to pick up through mid-2018 and then fell heavily in late 2018 along with the general greasy wool market,” he said.

“Since late 2018, the 28 micron price guide has rebounded to new, nominal highs.

“Arguably, the 28 micron category became so cheap in 2018 that it attracted renewed attention from processors, who were struggling with high Merino prices (which were) driven up by a plunging supply of broad Merino wool.”

The increases in crossbred prices have prevented the Eastern Market Indicator from falling further in the past few months.

WA’s Western Market Indicator does not include crossbred types, explaining why WA’s indicator has recorded more substantial losses than in the east.

Dyson Jones WA manager Peter Howie said the crossbred price rise was welcomed by WA farmers, who were also enjoying good prices for sheep meat.

“Last year 28 micron wool was about 850 clean, and now it has risen to about 1100 clean,” he said.

“This is a big rise. People were sometimes shearing and not sending their wool to the stores because the price wasn’t great ... they just weren’t worried about it.”

Mr Howie said he believed crossbred wool cut better in summer and autumn and some farmers held crossbred wool to “diversify their income a bit”.

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