Withheld wool pays off

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Although driven primarily by tax planning, the decision to hold back 180 bales of wool from their February-March ewe shearing has proved beneficial for the Mclean family, who farm at South Corrigin and East Wickepin.

Marty Mclean farms with parents Neale and Margaret. Also involved in the farming operation are sister Loren, who also works at Landmark in Merredin, and younger brother Trent, who will join them full time when he finishes studying at Cunderdin Agricultural College later this year.

As a result of holding on to their wool, the family is now poised to benefit from the price rally since Easter.

Mr Mclean said the family would be watching the market closely and would sell their wool in July or August, hopefully capturing a strong price.

Although the Eastern Market Indicator declined last week, the current price of 1356c/kg clean is still at the top end of the wool price over the past decade. By comparison, the EMI was 1094c/kg clean at the end of March.

The family runs 5300 breeding Merino ewes, refreshing their stock each year by buying in about 1000-1500 ewes.

Their ewes are mated with Poll Dorset rams to produce prime lambs, most of which are sold to Fletchers.

In addition to shearing ewes in February-March, lambs not sold earlier in the season are shorn in October/November, with that wool already sold. All wool is sold via Dyson Jones.

Mr Mclean said he is feeling optimistic about sheep farming, given the strength in both wool and sheep meat prices.

However, he said he was not ready to feel confident the strong wool prices would be sustained in the longer term, expecting it will be "up and down" in the near future.

This year the family will crop 2200ha at their two properties. This includes 200ha of Mandellup lupins, 300ha of LaTrobe and Scope barley, and 1700ha of Mace wheat.

He said they did not plant canola, preferring instead to dedicate that land to the sheep enterprise.

"This year the high wool and sheep meat prices mean that we would have to exceed the average canola yield for the area in order to achieve the same financial return currently being delivered by sheep," he said.

Mr Mclean said rainfall of 35mm at East Wickepin and 20mm-27mm at South Corrigin over the past week was timely.

If these rains had not arrived, Mr Mclean expected to be hand-feeding most sheep this week.

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