Wool still valuable commodity

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Brookdale Merino Stud co-principal Andrew Clarke has urged the sheep industry to not overlook the benefits of wool production amid current high meat prices.

Mr Clarke, of Arthur River, said wool was being largely forgotten as many farmers focused on buoyant sheepmeat opportunities.

"There is the ability to grow a great animal for the meat processors, while also growing and earning an income from the wool," he said.

"That seems a bit lost at the moment."

Mr Clarke, who runs the stud and 100 per cent Merino sheep enterprise with wife Anna and parents John and Lyn, said the future of the wool industry remained bright, with strong demand from global processors.

Meanwhile, meat and carcass traits on the Merino was continuously improving, leading it to be an excellent dual-purpose sheep.

Last week, the Brookdale Merino stud was about halfway through shearing some 11,000 sheep, from a total of 15,000 to be shorn this year, using the services of Narrogin shearing contractor Eddie McEllister and his team.

The Clarkes have used the services of Mr McEllister for more than 25 years.

Mr Clarke said lambs' wool had already gone to Fremantle for testing and would soon be put though the auction system via Elders.

However, the bulk of the Brookdale clip would be sold after Christmas.

The average micron across the clip is about 18.5 to 19.

"It is very hard to try and chase the wool cycles. The breeding objective isn't to get any finer but stay around this fine to medium type wool," Mr Clarke said.

The breeding program, which is being guided with the help of sheep classer Bill Walker, has led to the production of particularly long wool, which in recent years has been discounted by the market.

For instance, hogget wool is well over 120mm, which is considered too long by some processors.

"It seems strange that we should have to suppress the natural ability of the sheep to grow long wool," he said.

"However, the markets are chasing shorter wool, paying a premium for 60mm-70mm lengths. We could probably get that by shearing twice a year," he said.

"Some of our clients are doing it (shearing twice a year) and doing it well, but it's difficult to pursue ourselves due to the amount of sheep and the stud."

He said one option was to shear three times over two years, but this could still present challenges as one of those shearings would probably need to be during the winter period.

He is not ruling it out as an option for the future, saying more frequent shearing created a good management tool and could reduce the need for crutching, provided it was economically viable.

Meanwhile, Mr Clarke said the season in Arthur River was drier this year than usual but finished well during the spring.

Their recent ram sale commanded excellent support from local clients and achieved an average price of $955 for auction rams and he is still selling private selection rams now.

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