WA wool production down

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WA’s wool production is expected to drop by 13 per cent in 2011 as drought takes it toll on sheep numbers, according to the latest industry forecast.

For the 2010-11 season, the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee expects 335 million kilograms of greasy wool to come in.

Committee chairman Russell Pattinson said the national reduction was the result of worsening seasonal conditions in WA, resulting in lower fleece weights.

“There has also been a substantial turn-off of sheep from WA, including significant numbers being transported to the eastern states, ” Mr Pattinson said.

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“It is estimated that up to one million sheep (mostly ‘off-shears’) have been transferred from WA to the eastern states in the 2010 calendar year.”

The national forecast is 5 mkg greasy lower than the committee’s estimate of 340 mkg for the 2010-11 clip in August and is a decline of 2.3 per cent on the 2009/10 shorn wool production level.

The number of sheep shorn in 2010-11 is projected to be 72.4 million head, 900,000 head fewer than the forecast four months ago.

“Despite the further downward revision, the forecast is seen as consistent with a slowing in the decline in wool production in Australia, ” Mr Pattinson said.

“Not only is wool production tending to stabilise nationally, but producer intent to retain or increase sheep numbers is apparent from the October producer survey.

“There are, however, dramatic differences between states as a result of the varied seasonal conditions across Australia.”

“Excellent conditions in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are offsetting the impact of continuing dry seasonal conditions in WA.”

In arriving at its latest forecast, the committee noted the strong year-on-year decline in sheep slaughter and live export figures in all states except WA.

“This has reinforced the view from state committees that producers are very keen to retain older ewes and ewe lambs for breeding purposes, however, the positive impact of these decisions on wool production is not expected until 2011-12 and beyond.”

The committee has also forecast a change in the micron profile of the Australian wool clip with a reduction in the production of superfine and ultra-fine wool (18.5 microns and finer) together with an increase in broader Merino and non-Merino wools.

The average fibre diameter of the Australian wool clip is now forecast to increase by 0.2 microns to 21.4 microns this season.

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