Scaddan Merino wool to make baggy green caps
Two fleeces of freshly-shorn Merino wool from Scaddan recently found their way into a carry-on bag, on board a flight to Sydney.
The 14 kilograms of fine Merino wool came from Dave and Katherine Vandenberghe’s Merino flock, with most of it destined for Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) headquarters as part of the ‘Flock to Baggy Green’ project.
The ‘Flock to Baggy Green’ project has seen woolgrowers from around Australia donating wool for the next batch of Baggy Green caps, to be worn by Australian cricketers.
The wool will be processed into woven fabric and donated as finished cloth to Cricket Australia next summer, with every woolgrower who donates receiving a sample of the finished woven green fabric as a keepsake.
Growers have until March 31 to be involved in the project and can donate as little as a staple of wool, with more information available at www.wool.com/baggygreen
Most donations to date have been small samples sent by post, but the Vandenberghes decided to upsize their donation and were fortunate enough to have their fleece hand-delivered to Sydney by AWI Project Manager, Feedbase and Eco Credentials, Melissa McAulay.
“I had heard about the program but hadn’t really looked into it any further, but I do a bit of work with the AWI research and development crew and they encouraged us to donate to the cause,” Dave said.
“Cricket Australia supports our industry, so we were happy to return that support and take part in the program.
“We decided to donate an entire fleece, so we worked with our classer, Craig Hendriks, to select a fleece and then the next battle was how to get it there.
“It just so happened that Mel was coming over and we were having a meeting with her about pastures, so I just asked her if she would like some carry-on for the trip home.
“It’s certainly an unusual thing to take as carry-on and Mel said she got some very strange looks!”
The Vandenberghes run a commercial flock of 7000 Merinos and a Merino and Poll Merino stud, Wattle Dale. They also crop 3000 hectares.
As passionate Merino breeders and woolgrowers, Dave said they had dedicated a lot of time and effort to refining their breeding program.
“We breed for profitability and, in order to do that properly, we utilise any tool that will give us more information about our sheep, so we can target specific traits,” he said.
“That includes ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values), DNA testing, wether trials, sire evaluation, eye muscle scanning and fleece weighing.
“We select our stud sires on index, but they also have to look the goods – it needs to be the right combination.”
Providing quality nutrition for the sheep is also a priority for the Vandenberghes, and green feed is in abundance on their property at present, after they received 182 millimetres of rainfall over a 10-day period during February.
The downpour also resulted in some swans taking up residence in water-logged paddocks, which Dave said was quite a sight to behold.
Their hard work is paying off, as last year Wattle Dale sold 184 rams at the annual regional sale in Esperance, held in early September.
Dave said they had a great network of loyal clients, both locally and extending out to Condingup and across to Manjimup, Boyup Brook, Kojonup and Narrogin.
This year the Vandenberghes also sold a considerable amount of semen from one of their top sires to other well-known studs in Australia.
“The interest in fine wool has picked up and the interest in our rams has also gathered momentum, as our reputation has grown,” Dave said.
“We don’t show a lot of sheep at field days. It’s just not the way we’ve gone about promoting our sheep, as we like to let the performance of our rams stand out.”
Shearing takes place straight after harvest in December, which last year yielded a clip of 250 bales at an average of 18 micron.
They market their wool through Westcoast Wool & Livestock. Dave said they had been working with the company for more than 15 years, alongside Director/Auctioneer Danny Ryan.
While in the past they have staggered their marketing to target a rising market, Dave said this year they decided to sell their clip in one lot.
“We like to be actively involved in the marketing process and leading up to that time, we will have quite a few conversations about what we should sell and when and, prior to that, we make sure our lot sizes are appropriate,” he said.
“I’ve spent quite a few days with our brokers to get their insight on the best way to offer our clip, as I believe that’s quite valuable.”