Wool price premiums now a reality for Three Springs growers

AFTER years of hearing they couldn’t get price premiums for their specialised wool, Three Springs growers Anthony and Geraldine Thomas now recognise they can after a portion of their clip recently achieved up to 200 cents per kilogram clean more than similar type wools at auction.

The wool from young hoggets and rams on their ‘Hill Padua’ property was sourced for the Organica Precious Fibre brand developed by Chargeurs Luxury Materials, as part of an arrangement the company has with the export division of locally-owned agribusiness, Westcoast Wool & Livestock.

The 26-bale offering over four lots in the Westcoast Wool & Livestock catalogue ranged from 17.3-18.1 microns with up to 1.7 per cent vegetable matter, length of 73 millimetres and strength of 43 newtons per kilotex for hauteur of up to 73.

The four lots achieved prices ranging from 150-200c/kg clean higher than other similar wools offered at the auction.

Photo caption: Three Springs woolgrowers Anthony and Geraldine Thomas (centre), flanked by Brad Groves (left) and Danny Ryan, both of Westcoast Wool & Livestock, during a visit to the Ram Shed at the Dowerin field days recently.  

After fielding strong interest from European processors for niche market wool types, Westcoast Wool & Livestock partnered with Chargeurs from late last year to source wool for its premium eco-friendly Merino brand. The select wools can be sold on forward contract, via direct trade or through the traditional auction system.

“It is an exciting prospect for an increasing number of growers and extends on our strong core focus to maximise market opportunities and returns for all WA woolgrowers,’’ said Westcoast Wool & Livestock Export manager William Davidson.

The company’s Justin Haydock said in addition to securing all of the wool offered by the Thomas family recently, Chargeurs also had already purchased several other wool lines as well as whole clips through Westcoast Wool & Livestock for its Organica Precious Fibre brand.

“The Thomas’ shear every six months and the competition on their wool was very strong. Organica is a fantastic product for those who meet this niche market,’’ Justin said.

He said the wool secured for the global brand generally achieved market premiums of 5-7pc.

Compared with other leading global wool labels, Organica has the most complete and ambitious protocol for traceable and eco-friendly wool. This includes blockchain traceability, allowing customers full transparency to track the product’s journey from the farm right through the supply chain, which is now increasingly demanded by today’s consumers.

Anthony said the recent sale was the first time the family had sold wool via Westcoast Wool & Livestock, prompted by the company’s arrangement with Chargeurs for the Organica Precious Fibre brand.

“For us, it has now become another option. They have all been saying we can’t get a premium, but we now can,’’ Anthony said.

“This crowd has made a difference and we were very happy.’’

He said their sheep and wool enterprise had to achieve accreditation to ensure their select wool met the requirements of Organica Precious Fibre.

“We were visited by an auditor from Uruguay and Chargeurs representatives from Italy. They looked at everything and we passed the audit.’’

“No mulesing was the main requirement and we haven’t mulesed for about 15 years.

“We breed a sheep with a flat backside and no wrinkles.

“We also use minimal chemical with our sheep.’’

Anthony and Geraldine run about 2900 mated ewes and, together with their nephew, Adam Thomas, crop 3600 hectares to wheat, barley, canola and lupins on their 8000ha ‘Hill Padua’ property. They also run the Hill Padua Poll Merino stud, turning off about 160 rams annually.

Anthony said extending the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) across their entire stud and commercial sheep operation had fast-tracked the improvement of their flock. For all traits, the flock is significantly above the Australian averages.

Electronic tags are used to provide complete performance data and heritage on all sheep throughout their lifetime on the property.

“We have been concentrating on meat, very bright, white stylish wool, shape – a big backside with legs wide apart – and good fertility.’’

“When I left school, Dad was cutting 12-pound (about 5 kilograms) a head of 23-micron wool with a lambing percentage of 60. We are still cutting between 5-6kg, but the wool micron average is 19 and we have a lambing percentage of 120.’’

The family produces around 160 bales of wool from their two shearings in April and October, which has been undertaken the past four to five years.

“Depending upon the season and lambings, our worst wool length was 55mm and the best was 78mm since we have had the two shearings. Also, our newtons (per kilotex) have gone up into the 60s,’’ Anthony said.

“We will maintain the two shearings for the health of the sheep. The ewes do so much better. We are still getting 140mm of wool (annually) and sheep health is better – and that’s the name of the game.’’

The family is now preparing for its annual ram sale at ‘Hill Padua’ to be held on Monday, September 23.

For further information about the Organica Precious Fibre program in WA, growers can contact Westcoast Wool & Livestock on (08) 9418 8448.

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