Long wools proving industry headache

Shearing delays add to long staple length woes for processors

Sheepmeat
The national shearer shortage has seen delays of up to two months in some areas. These delays mean wool lengths are longer once they are shorn and sent to wool auctions.

The national shearer shortage has seen delays of up to two months in some areas. These delays mean wool lengths are longer once they are shorn and sent to wool auctions.

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Shearing delays across the country adding to longer length wool woes for processors.

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The national shearer shortage and increasing trend to produce a plainer bodied sheep is causing issues associated with longer length wools entering the processing chain.

NSW south-east wool broker for Nutrien Ag Solutions, David Hart, said the increasing direction to breed a plainer bodied sheep, which in turn punches out a longer staple, combined with shearing delays across the country, is exacerbating the problem.

He said the difficulties getting shearers across state borders and the absence of NZ shearers is fast becoming a very tangible problem.

"I have clients that wanted the shear before Christmas and now wont shear until later in January because they just can't get the shearing teams," Mr Hart said.

"And the goal these days seems to be to breed an easy-care, fertile sheep. That plainness of body tends to have a strong correlation to increased staple length.

"Put that into the mix with a delayed shearing by a couple of months, you might have a medium wool sheep that would ordinarily grow 100mm, will then grow 110 to 115mm before it's shorn."

He admitted there are some blurred lines and variations, depending somewhat on micron, but there are lines of wool that are entering the market which processors will struggle with when processing.

"It also depends also on where the break is, because that has an impact on the coefficient of variation of hauteur (CVH)," he said.

"I have seen wools that are 115mm or 120mm with high mid breaks with CVHs into the 60 per cent mark.

"This makes them far less attractive to a top-maker. They will buy them and they will use them, but they will discount them fairly heavily."

Conversely, Mr Hart said if the break is at the tip or the base, it's much less important, but the processor will still be faced with the problem of having to find a place to blend those over length wools.

"It's all about processing efficiency, processors, top-makers, and spinners - they all like to operate their machinery at fairly high speed to increase efficiency," Mr Hart said.

"Overlong wool can impact on that efficiency of processing and make it more expensive, more fibre breakages, and slower operating speeds.

"Overall, the ideal length does vary between microns, but for 17 to 19 micron wools, a staple length of 80 to 90mm is ideal and naturally, the sounder the better."

He said the knock-on effects of delayed shearing can also cause havoc with on-farm programs.

"If you're shearing six weeks later than your normal date, that sends ripples downstream into your program," he said.

"And where that could be a real problem is the increasing number of people that are shearing at six or eight-month intervals.

"If you shear every six months and shearing has been put back by six weeks, and you want to get back into your normal pattern next shearing that means your sheep have may only have 4.5 months wool on them."

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