Misty Hills to walk a fine line

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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The Australian wool market finished 1.3 per cent lower last week, following three weeks of solid gains.

AWEX said fleece wools were 15 and 30 cents cheaper with 19.5 and 21 micron categories taking the brunt of the hit.

"The overall picture was a declining market," the exchange said.

AWEX said in a positive sign, the Western Indicator's 23c/kg loss on Wednesday was followed by a modest 1c rise on Thursday.

"Good style lots gained ground with a shortage of wool in this sector being very much the talking point of the trade," it said.

Superfine wool breeders Russell and Heather Meaton, of Misty Hills stud, Kojonup, sold to a top of 1600c/kg greasy for six bales of 14.6 micron wool last week.

Their 40-bale consignment averaged 15 microns and sold for an average price of 1309c/kg greasy.

They also sold an allotment of their clip in February at similar prices.

Faced with the realisation of fine wool prices being 20-30 per cent down since the start of the 2011-12 season, the Meatons, like other superfine producers, must consider their future.

"Clearly the optimism that showed during the higher prices of last spring was very short lived," Mr Meaton said.

"It is very disappointing to all fine wool growers who are continually faced with increased costs in their production."

He said the current situation would sort the dedicated fine wool breeders out with some possibly considering a change to the more attractive sheep meat sector.

But the Meatons expect the supply of fine wool will in due course find the right balance where it will become a more profitable enterprise.

"We believe it is best to stick with what you know and enjoy," Mr Meaton said.

The Meatons are back from a successful Wagin Woolorama where their Merinos were awarded champion superfine ram and ewe.

Mr Meaton said they were most pleased with placing second in the group class - the H Biggin Memorial Trophy, two rams and two ewes - against seven other studs.

The couple have been steadily reducing the number of wethers they run to focus on their breeding ewes.

"We are putting more effort into having the ewes in better condition at lambing and joining," Mr Meaton said.

They are also establishing an 18 micron Poll Merino flock with a focus on fertility traits, early growth rate and quality wool.

Another area of work for the Meatons is increasing fodder crops and opportunity grazing cereal crops to beat the autumn winter feed gap.

They also keep in close contact with their wool broker to take advantage of any premiums that arise, especially at fine wool sales.

"We sell throughout the year and have had good results," Mr Meaton said.

Primaries of WA wool manager Tim Chapman said that there would always be a market for superfine wool.

"Superfine breeders are working towards higher wool cuts to counter cost of production increases," he said.

"While China will tend to substitute on superfine wools when margins shrink, Italian processors will continue to operate on fine wools at margins and price levels associated with luxury brands."

The WA Superfine Woolgrowers Association is holding its annual general meeting on Friday at the Ocean Beach Hotel, Cottesloe.

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