Elders district wool manager Brett Smith is ambitiously lifting the production and profit of clients across the expansive North West NSW and Southern Queensland region.
The modern day wool broker is a Lifetime Ewe Management facilitator and has proudly influenced clients’ lamb marking rates by up to 17 per cent through his on-farm strategies.
“This is big business in the modern Merino enterprise and something that will be vital to the flock rebuild,” Mr Smith said.
The young district wool manager’s drive and enthusiasm is what earned him a position as a 2017 National Wool Broker of the Year finalist.
Mr Smith’s commitment to boosting clients’ production is what he likes to hang his hat on.
“You could have the best science in the world but if people don’t understand it and don’t apply it, it can be easily forgotten about,” he said.
“Our relationship with our clients is as much about helping them improve production as it is about marketing wool.
You could have the best science in the world but if people don’t understand it and don’t apply it, it can be easily forgotten about
“I am motivated by increasing productivity because that increases profit.”
His eagerness to improve the productivity and profitability of wool growing stemmed from his connection to “Tralee”, his family’s third generation woolgrowing property at St George, Queensland.
“The ongoing drought and wild dogs has been a major challenge,” he said.
“From my own family’s experience, I saw the weakness was in productivity.”
He believed the survival of the industry was dependent on an increase in Merino sheep numbers, which were competing for land in the district against broadacre cropping, irrigated cotton, cattle and shedding meat breeds.
But Mr Smith said after just a small break from a prolonged drought, Queensland woolgrowers were “fatigued” by the environmental challenges.
“Through extension programs, my clients have increased their lambing rates anywhere from eight to 20pc, but again we have hit a brick wall with another big dry,” he said.
“The learning we’ve been doing is becoming more important because clients’ are trying to rebuild while faced with another long dry spell.”
He said this knowledge had increased the performance of clients’ who are now joining a high proportion of maiden ewes in their flocks as seasons and management have altered their flock structure.
“The major challenge for the industry is definitely increasing productivity and the national Merino flock base as it is crucial for the whole sheep industry,” Mr Smith said.
“We are all competing for a smaller pie with the flock getting smaller over a long period and the flock structure changing with less wool being grown.
“We as brokers need to sell the Merino enterprise to people and advise them on increasing their productivity.”
Q&A with 2017 Wool Broker of the Year finalist Brett Smith, Elders
How long have you been in the industry?
Nearly six years. I’m a third generation woolgrower from “Tralee”, St George, Queensland. I originally started as a wool account manager with Landmark, but the drought led me to my position Elders. I’m currently the North West NSW and Southern QLD District Wool Manager.
What do you see as your major achievement?
My passion is in increasing my clients’ production through education and support. In 2013 I was the first to start the Lifetime Ewe Management Group in the region which has resulted in the 20 participant’s witnessing lamb marking rates increase from eight to 20 per cent.
What makes a good wool broker?
It is more than just wool brokering and more than turning up at shearing time.
Clip preparation advice and marketing advice is important and managing clients’ risk through marketing strategies is important but so too is the on-farm production support which gives your client that extra value – that is what I feel I my point of difference is.
In what way do you hope to make your mark on the industry?
In the lamb survival space as I’m focused in getting my clients’ more lambs on the ground. We have the genetics but the environment I work in has a lot of challenges made worse by wild dogs and competing land uses.
My role as a Lifetime Ewe Management and Pastoral Profit group organiser is about getting people to benchmark their production and identify the areas of extension they need support with. It is about asking where they want their levy-funded extension invested, instead of telling them what they need to improve. We come up with a system which identifies clients’ main profit drivers, being lambs on the ground, their wool cut and pasture quality, and we look at what strategies we can use to increase these.
Both these profit drivers can be antagonistic of the other, so it trying to improve both of them without compromise.
What do you see as the major challenge for the wool industry, and what role does a broker play in dealing with this?
The major challenge for the industry is definitely getting that productivity up and increasing the national Merino flock. We are all competing for a smaller pie with the flock getting smaller over a long period and the flock structure changing with less wool being grown.
We as brokers need to sell the Merino enterprise to people and advise them on increasing their productivity.