Shrinking clip hits the bush

Shrinking clip hits the bush

Gordon Litchfield Wool director Gordon Litchfield taking core samples from the bales of wool processed in the company's Cooma store.

Gordon Litchfield Wool director Gordon Litchfield taking core samples from the bales of wool processed in the company's Cooma store.


The steady reduction in the wool clip is having a flow-on effect to businesses beyond the farm gate


Across the state, landholders are steadily reducing their flocks to core breeding stock as the drought tightens its grip.

In turn, the reduced wool clip is having a significant flow-on effect, far beyond the farm boundaries.

Every region across the state is impacted, and while this focus is on the Monaro it is not isolated. Wool brokers, trucking companies and saleyards, among other businesses, all feeling the brunt.

Director of wool broker Gordon Litchfield Wool , Gordon Litchfield, Cooma, who has receival stores in Cooma and Yass, has first-hand experience of the slowing in wool production.

With the dramatic reduction in number of bales produced, Mr Litchfield said the focus on woolgrowers tends to distort the true picture.

“There are a lot of other businesses which probably aren’t counted, but in our business we have to maintain our infrastructure, our staff have to be retained and our service levels can’t be withdrawn very easily without damaging the future of our business,” he said.

“There is a chain between the grower and ourselves … the transport operators who are carting the wool have to maintain their trucks and staff on limited turnover.”

Mr Litchfield made the point with fewer bales to cart many of the loads were not complete and therefore added to cartage costs.

“Wool has to be moved, but it is not just the matter of overall volume, they are often not full loads,” he said.

“The show has to go on, but the margin has been cut back for those operators.”

The carriers are but one example of the businesses directly affected by the lower wool production, and an example that could easily be multiplied across the state.

Mr Litchfield said during his 30 years in business he has never witnessed the re-investment that has occurred during the past few years, but is now in abeyance.

“The little businesses are affected, they have noticed the downturn and can feel the drought straight away,” he said.

The reduction in livestock numbers has a flow-on effect to other businesses, such as the Cooma saleyards.

Local agent, Chippy Boller, director of Boller and Company, Cooma, reports there hasn’t been sufficient numbers to hold a sheep sale for some time.

“This is the toughest winter I can recall for quite a while,” said the veteran stock and station agent.

“It has been a battle for the Cooma saleyards, with producers carting their stock to the bigger centres to attract greater competition.

“Numbers for our weaner (cattle) sales will be back and the weight will be less, but there is confidence among our producers.”

Cooma Chamber of Commerce executive officer, Kylie Douch, thought it reasonable to say the majority of the Cooma business sector was currently a lot better off than many other regional towns and communities throughout NSW.

She said their tourism industry provided some drought proofing, with over 5000 visitors recently attracted to the region for the Snowy Mountains Trout Festival, the Honda Snowy Ride and the Australian National Busking Championships.  

“Local farmers will acknowledge that we have come off three or four good seasons before slipping into this current drought situation with the struggle to source stock feed and the never ending roundabout of feeding,” Ms Douch said.

“It can not be denied that the tourism industry certainly provides our local business sector some drought proofing ... we are the fortunate ones at present.”


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