The wool market’s recent high prices have been a long time coming, according to Sandy Morris, Yardea Station in the Gawler Ranges.
With only 50 millimetres of rain measured at Yardea this year, Mr Morris said the record wool prices have been a huge boost.
“Wool prices have kicked up unbelievably this year and we’ve sold into a fantastic market,” he said.
“Prices for some of our AAAM lines have been more than $2800 per bale, which we would never have imagined receiving. Last year we averaged $1400 per bale and thought that was great.
“This year I think we will average at least $2000/bale across our whole clip.”
Mr Morris lives at Yardea, while his brother Ian and sister-in-law Katrina live on the neighbouring Thurlga Station. The two stations, totalling 2500 square kilometres, are run together.
Sheep numbers across the two properties are at an all-time low due to the seasonal conditions. Usually, the Morris family would run 20,000 Merino sheep but this year numbers have been reduced to 11,000 ewes. In an average season, Yardea receives about 250mm of rain.
“We rely on surface water and although last year’s rainfall wasn’t a record low, it was not sufficient to grow any winter feed and didn’t run any water to recharge our dams and wells,” Mr Morris said.
“Many of our wells have gone dry or are at such low levels they are not producing much water. We’ve really hit a water crisis, so we have had to sell off a lot of sheep during the past 12 months.
“There has been a couple of promising rains in the last month which have got some germination going, if we get some follow-up rain to keep the green pick coming we will probably have a reasonable lambing.”
The Morris family have been sourcing their rams from the Old Ashrose stud, Hallett, for many years, selecting plain-bodied, heavy-cutting, structurally-sound sires.
“We also like a bare face and legs as they seem to do better in our harsh environment. The rams also need to be able to look after themselves, so survivability is very important,” he said.
Shearing gets under way during April, with 15,000 sheep going through the shed this year.
Mr Morris was pleased with the quality of the 400-bale wool clip, which averaged 20 micron. The wool was split into 100 bale lots and sold by Elders across four sales in May.
“The wool quality has been excellent this year, very clean, white and sound with low vegetable matter, it’s some of the best looking wool we’ve produced for a long time,” he said.
“But the yield has been down a little on what we expected, at 60 per cent, normally it would about 65pc, but this is due to the dust.
“In dry conditions the micron will come down – that’s the ironic thing about a drought, you produce your best wool.”
According to Mr Morris, the biggest challenge during drought is managing stock numbers to maximise productivity. This year the ewes were pregnancy scanned after shearing and any dry ewes sold. Joining is in late December for a June lambing.
“We want to reduce our numbers down but still keep our pregnant ewes to ensure we get a good lambing,” he said.