Boost for Merino ram sales on NSW Monaro

merino 01Good prices and low pass in rates at the Monaro Merino spring sales reflect renewed confidence in wool and the season ahead.

Throughout the sales, the mood was buoyant with buyers and sellers all pointing to the lush green conditions surrounding the venues just outside of Cooma in southern New South Wales.

Many were struggling to recall a better start to the season.

Average prices at the two initial rams sales saw $1677 for Greendale merinos with only two passed in.

Top price was $3750.00

Neighbouring Hazeldean averaged $1537.04 with a 100 per cent clearance rate and the top ram going for $3600.00.

Monaro Merino Association President Simon King from Avonside says the good local conditions were a 'big factor' and some good rain over the next month could result in one of the best ever seasons.
Monaro Merino spring auction Photo: Auctioning of merino rams on the NSW Monaro attracted good average prices (Michael Cavanagh)

The lower dollar and increased interest in fine wool by Italian buyers over the past few weeks at the national wool sales is also regarded as a factor in boosting confidence.

"I think a little bit of both," Mr King said.

"The confidence in the wool market, we all hold out hope that it will gain strength on its recent increases.

"Medium term people have a lot of confidence in the wool industry at the moment."

Mr King was standing in the shed at Hazeldean in the lead up to the auction as potential buyers inspected just over 100 rams that were up for sale.

The confidence on the Monaro had led to some new local buyers successfully bidding.

However the dry conditions in the north of NSW had led to some regular buyers who traditionally have travelled to the sales to bypass this year's event.

Despite this Mr King believes this will not be a major factor in the number of buyers from wider afield.

"Most people that have stuck with the merino industry over a period of time are in it for the long haul," he said.

"Obviously the areas that are really dry, we'll get lesser demand from those areas.

"People need new genetics and will turn up with a budget and try to go from there."

The Association's final sale is November 12th.

Questioning Marketing focus

merino 02A SUREFIRE way of making Merino wool production more profitable is to spend less on promotion and more on research and development, says John Keniry, the recently retired chairman of the Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

Dr Keniry said industry politicians and "others" had successfully campaigned for increased spending on marketing and promotion in the years after the first WoolPoll in 2000 when growers voted for a two per cent levy on their wool sales with a heavy focus on R&D and no retail consumer marketing.

Their decision was in line with recommendations of the Wool Future Directions Task Force headed by Ian McLachlan, which argued strongly against any spending on generic wool promotion.

Dr Keniry, who chaired the first three WoolPolls, said this approach had been diluted over time with growers voting in 2012 to allow Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to spend 60 per cent of their levies on promotion and marketing.

Given current lacklustre wool prices, particular for superfine, Dr Keniry said growers should be questioning whether AWI's spending focus on marketing and promotion was the right policy for shareholders.

He believed "no rigorous work" was being done to prove AWI promotion strategies were lifting Merino wool demand at retail level which, in theory, should increase returns to growers.

In contrast, Dr Keniry said there was plenty of evidence that extra spending on sheep R&D would lift on-farm productivity and cut costs.

The Sheep CRC and AWI have had a thorny relationship for some time which Dr Keniry puts down to the CRC's unswerving view that R&D pays off for producers.

And he hasn't resiled from his view, first expressed in 2009, that AWI should be combined with Meat and Livestock Australia to produce a one-stop shop for beef and sheep research, promotion and marketing.

Such a merger would produce significant savings on overheads and remove "a lot of the politics" out of who gets elected to the AWI board.

Glanna Top Ram

SEVENTY-seven rams from 100 topped at $2800 twice and averaged $1273 at the 26th annual Glanna Merino stud on-property sale at Gulgong this afternoon.

Stud principals Ron and Jeff Rayner were pleased with the response of the 20 returning clients who secured the 77 per cent of the auction offering.

Long-time client Trevor Harding, "Tabbabucca", Ilford, bought the two sale toppers at $2800 each while buying four rams for an average of $2150.

Mr Harding joins 1500 Merino ewes in March and likes the wool growing features of Glanna sheep, which are growing an average 18 micron wool.

He cell-grazes four mobs of 1000 sheep in 94 paddocks of 20 hectare size and said the rams he bought were the best of the offering.

Another long-term client is the Bateman family, "Tantallon", Kangarooby near Orange, better known for their Gilmandyke Angus stud, but also run 2000 Merino ewes of 19 micron wool cutting an average 6kg fleece.

They bought nine rams topping at $2400 and averaging in price at $1489.

Merino genetics challenge kicks off

YOUNG gun shearers took to the board to shear 750 wethers in Australia's largest commercial evaluation of Merino genetics - the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge (PWMCC).

The PWMCC which runs from 2014 to 2016 kicked off with 50 teams of 30 wethers last year.

Once all wethers were together they were separated into two sections, with one half being lotfed with their meat measured, while the remaining 15 from each team were used for wool evaluations.

The average age of the wethers when they entered the challenge was seven-months-old, they were all shorn upon entry and last week were shorn again with 11 months wool growth.

First shearing was conducted over a two-day period at the TAFE Riverina's Primary Industries Centre at Wagga last week.

Challenge convener, Craig Wilson, Wagga, said the challenge evaluated both commercial carcase and wool attributes of randomly sampled wethers lambs from across Australia.

Preliminary results show Jerilderie's Ross and Irene Wells' Willandra Merino stud, NSW, genetics as a standout with two of their clients claiming the two top places on the board.

Wedderburn growers, Ian and Julie Gould, "Wattle Grange", Victoria, finished with the best figures for their team of wethers that had a wool average of 19.4 micron, cut 8.6kg of wool, weighed 63.6kg, had a meat value of $86.07, wool value of $67.95 and total sheep value of $154.02.

Second placed in the statistics were Maurice and Nancye Hicks, "Springfield", Cootamundra, with his 20.6 micron team of wethers, that cut 9.4kg of wool, weighed 64.2kg had a meat value of $86.92, a wool value of $66.16 and a total sheep value of $153.08.

Mr Wells said when his clients put teams in the challenge it provided an opportunity to benchmark his genetics against others breeders, and in particular the concept that Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV's) and Estimated Breeding Value's (EBV's) were the only way the sheep industry could go forward.

"The most important factor for anyone is the bottom line; in the end the more you get for your product the better you will be able to move forward," he said.

Mr Wilson said the 50 entrants that were part of the challenge were at different stages of genetic progress.

"The underlying critical element from all of the data is we are measuring actual genetic variation, all sheep have been run together and managed exactly the same way. They have all had the same opportunities," he said.

Throughout the 2014-2016 challenge more than 50,000 records will be collected and processed.

Traits measured include body weight, fat score, fibre diameter, co-efficient of variation of fibre diameter, standard deviation of fibre diameter, spinning fineness curvature, comfort factor, washing yield, schlumberger yield, greasy fleece weight, clean fleece weight and staple strength.

Mr Wilson said the information and data analysis from the challenge showed entrants and the wider sheep industry the financial opportunities that exist through high performance Merino genetics.

"Net profit per hectare is a good indicator when comparing enterprise types.

"Knowledge of the relative performance of your Merino genetics is vital in running a profitable sheep business."

The evaluation shearing conducted last week focused on youth and education.

The inaugural PWMMC Advanced Shearing School coincided with the first evaluation shearing for the 2014-2016 challenge.

Ten young shearers shore the challenge wethers and received training from Australian Wool Innovation accredited shearer trainers.

"It's an opportunity to showcase all parts of the wool growing and harvesting process and provide young aspiring shearers to gain valuable training and experience," Mr Wilson said.

The focus of the PWMMC was youth and education and attracted 70 students studying agriculture at Wagga who observed the shearing process and fleece data recording as they came off the board, as well as students from TAFE and Charles Sturt University.

A team of students from St Paul's College, Walla Walla, NSW, helped pen sheep for shearing.

This year marked 10 years of continuous benchmarking of Merino genetics by Mr Wilson.

He commenced his first benchmarking of Merino genetics in 2004 at Collingullie, NSW.

Since then 7720 wether and 80 different bloodlines had been benchmarked for 294 entrants at eight different sites.

In the 2012-2014 PWMMC three key traits- fibre diameter, clean fleece weight and body weight under the five-year average price period were calculated to determine net profit per hectare.

The top 20 per cent of teams in the challenge were $93 more profitable per hectare that the bottom 20pc, which were run at the same stocking rate.

The top 20pc were on average one micron finer and cut 700 grams more clean fleece weight.            

Article: Cara Jeffery - is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
The Land Newspaper 14/3/2015
Photo: Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge Convener, Craig Wilson, Wagga Wagga at the wether shearing at Wagga last week.

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