Hardie’s passion holds firm for the elite fibre
Wandering Merino breeder Merv Hardie is true-blue dyed-in-the-wool when it comes to spinning a yarn on the subject of growing elite fibre off the sheep’s back.
The third-generation Wallinar stud breeder, who retired to a more moderate Hillside stud at Wandering, has identified superior wool fibres for most of his farming life.
He fell under the late Jim Watts’ Soft Rolling Skins breeding philosophy late 1980s, observing the science through a microscope.
“Wools that produce matchstick-size bundles with a lot of follicles do not blow out in fibre diameter,” Mr Hardie said.
“My balanced breeding objectives have produced Merinos with heavy cutting wools while receiving the best prices from the fine wool category.”
My balanced breeding objectives have produced Merinos with heavy cutting wools while receiving the best prices from the fine wool category.
Mr Hardie’s sale-topping two bale line of 15.1 micron wool, with 9 months growth sold for 1500¢/kg last week at the Western Wool Centre through Primaries.
His wool sample was full of white waxy bundles from August shorn hoggets out of a “tough winter”.
The Hardie family had a syndication of wool processed through Japan’s textile company, Itochu Corporation, in 1999 which flowed through the TOABO wool processing operation and SOTOH finishing mill to the group’s 300-shop retailing arm, AIKO.
Mr Hardie said TOABO was excited about the extra spin-ability of the soft roller wool types enabling them to produce a higher quality product at less cost.
But this was short lived when bulk Chinese processing became the new dominance, using the traditional blended wools to produce a more economical product.
“South Australian breeder Art Collins identified elite wool as far back as 1936,” Mr Hardie said.
“It’s a special fibre, not a bulk commodity and it has cashmere-like softness, but with less pilling (a surface defect of textiles), because it has fewer short fibres.”
Mr Hardie was saddened to think his wool would be blended with less quality wools.
“The buyers of the garments made from blended wool are not getting the real deal when it comes to elite wools nor are growers of these fluid, waxy nutrient wools getting their just rewards,” he said.
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