Graziers are shearing their lambs in greater numbers to cash in on international demand for shorter length fleeces.
It’s quite common on the Northern Tablelands to shear lambs at eight or nine months, and the benefits are in the returns.
Very few woolgrowers now shear any of their sheep to the full 12 months, accepting some of the the market is demanding shorter staple lengths of between 60-80mm. Lambs wool is sought after in the 60-65mm range.
Don Macdonald, “Mullungeen”, Molong, principal of Macdonald and Co Woolbrokers, Dubbo, said there was strong demand for the finer lambs wool.
“I wouldn’t say there’s more of it, but the demand is there,” he said. “I can’t see that the nature of lamb shearing has changed it’s just that people are seeking optimum prices. The market is keen to have something between 60-70mm.”
Prices for lambs wool has climbed up 500 cents in the last few years and lamb shearing has become more profitable.
The whole nature of shearing times have changed. “People are shearing now at much shorter intervals. There would be hardly anyone going the full 12 months. They know the market is more interested in 80mm fleeces than 110mm. The shearing regime has changed. People shear say three times in two years or twice in a year now.”
He said strong consumer demand for woollen products was driving the market. “Products such as skin thermal wear have really jumped in interest. The quality of wool is better than it has been for years and that is being respected by consumers.”
Greg Andrews, northern wool manager for Schute Bell, said staple lengths of 50-60m was bringing a lot of interest. “A lot of this is going into China. Lambs wool in the north can go from 15 to 21 microns, with most about 16 microns.”
Traditionally on the New England, lambs are shorn earlier than in other areas of NSW due to the climate. Shearing lambs at about eight to nine months was common practice.
Ben Litchfield, Cooma manager, Schute Bell, said the predictability of the shorter fleeces was very attractive to processors. Mr Litchfield said the discounting that had occurred on the shorter length fleeces was not as heavy as it used to be.
“When it comes to a decision to shear or not to shear lambs, many breeders and producers are thinking shearing is now a viable option,” he said.
“Graziers in the south are doing a little more shearing of lambs because the price they can get is quite attractive. The discounting that there once was doesn’t seem to be as severe now. Processors seem to be able to get a pretty strong product when they are looking at 60-65mm lengths.
“Predictability is one of the drivers, the staple is very sound , from the greasy length to the top length.
“You might not get the weight and the bulk (from the lambs wool), but the prices (for shorter wools) is very attractive. It’s quite a factor when you are thinking what you want to do with your lambs.”
Lambing was only just starting in the Monaro, so lamb shearing was still some way off.
Prices can vary wildly for the shorter length wools, but generally they were floating about the 1400c/kg.