Refined micron debate

Wool price gap closing


Sheep
Bookham judges Malcolm Cox, Bocoble stud, Eumungerie, and Allan 'Smokey' Dawson, Winyar stud, Canowindra.

Bookham judges Malcolm Cox, Bocoble stud, Eumungerie, and Allan 'Smokey' Dawson, Winyar stud, Canowindra.

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Are finer wool Merinos away from the Highlands losing their "oomph"?

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JUDGING at the Bookham ewe competition, Canowindra-based studmaster Allan 'Smokey' Dawson of Winyar thought many flocks today were growing possibly a micron or a micron-and-a-half too finer wool in their adult flocks.

"More in the western areas, but certainly in the higher rainfall tablelands as well," he said. "The finer sheep are not cutting enough wool, nor are they getting earlier maturing type sheep."

Mr Dawson said wool growing had been refined using micron, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, comfort factor and other tools and a lot of ram selection had been used with those figures.

And while wool had been refined to a very high level, which was needed to produce the softer and more comfortable garments worn today, he asked if in this time breeders had taken the "oomph" out of fibre, skins and structure in many flocks.

Mr Dawson was judging with Malcolm Cox of Bocoble stud, Eumungerie.

"Even though we are in drought conditions there is a lot of sheep that you can see too much skin area, and the fibre is too thin and needs more lock," Mr Dawson said.

"A lot of sheep in western areas are running at around 19 micron where they could be 20.5 or 21 micron. It's horses for courses. I just think that when we use those 20.5 to 21 micron or 22 micron, we also are linking-in through genetics, a stronger sheep that has more constitution and is just a bigger, more powerful animal.

"They carry that little bit extra about them and I would suggest people will not move the micron unless they go outside two microns.

"The late Tom Culley kept the "oomph" in his flock's wool by occasionally putting a strong wool ram through his medium wool ewes and to sweeten up his strong wool flock, put a medium through those ewes.

"And that's how he kept wool on his sheep."

Dubbo woolbroker Don Macdonald said Mr Dawson's point was more about breeding the type of sheep that are suited to their country.

"Australia used to be a predominantly 22 micron flock and now we are predominantly a 19.5 micron flock," Mr Macdonald said.

"These days the price parity between 19 and 21 micron has closed  up, so it's easy to say if we went back to 21 micron wool, we'd have an extra kilogram of wool. The microns are worth nearly the same money."

Last week 21 micron wool was worth 2321 cents/kg and 19 micron 2381c/kg - 0.60c/kg clean difference or 2.5 per cent loss on 21 micron but 20pc gain in total value from the extra wool grown.

"Mr Dawson is saying you can maintain the gains already made like mothering and rearing lambs and add wool to your ewes as well, and that's a win-win and is probably everyone's goal."

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