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Beyond the Bale : March 2017
Mixed farmers Mitchell, Phillip and Eric Innes from Kellerberrin in the central wheatbelt of WA. MERINOS PAY THEIR WAY IN WA’S CENTRAL WHEATBELT Mixed enterprise farmers Eric, Phillip and Mitchell Innes from south-east Kellerberrin in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia are strong supporters of Merinos as part of their farming business and are very confident about wool’s future profitability. Several years ago, Eric Innes flirted with the idea of selling all his sheep. “I confess that I didn’t think about it for too long, because I really love the sheep, but there were times when it was a challenge to get the right people to do our shearing,” he said. A shearer himself for almost 30 years, Eric says finding reliable contractors to come to Western Australia’s central wheatbelt had previously been a challenge. “Thankfully we didn’t ever have to go down the path because sheep have always been an integral part of our farming business, and very important in terms of weed control and cash flow,” he says. “It was simply because shearing contractors were getting few and far between out here in the central wheatbelt because many farmers had moved into continuous cropping businesses. “We have solved that issue now and are very happy with our current arrangements.” Fast forward to February 2017, and his farm business has just sold its biggest clip in its 83-year history – 150 bales – at record prices up to 1178 cent/kg greasy. ALWAYS A PLACE FOR WOOL Eric, who farms with younger brother Phillip, and son Mitchell, says those thoughts of selling his sheep are long gone, and even the times when wool prices were significantly lower than they are today, he always knew there would be a place in the business for his treasured Merino flock. In fact, Eric is so confident in the future of the wool industry that the business has invested in new sheep yards, a new wool press and new shearing heads in the shearing shed. “Looking at the numbers now, [Merinos] are a very profitable part of the operation. There has been no frost effect on the wool!” Mixed farmer Phillip Innes The Innes family, who farm south east of Kellerberrin, have a mixed sheep and cropping enterprise, across 10,500 ha, with 30 per cent of the operation dedicated to their Merino sheep flock. The brothers work well together, with Phillip as the main driver of the cropping business and Eric as the self-confessed “sheep man”. Phillip also worked as a shearer for many years and agrees the sheep flock is critical to the way they do business. “Even during the times of lower prices, we all still believed the sheep had a place in the rotation, and we believed they paid their own way,” Phillip says. “Looking at the numbers now, they are a very profitable part of the operation. There has been no frost effect on the wool,” he laughs. The farm runs 2,800 ewes and 2,400 lambs, with the focus over the past decade on lowering the micron and increasing the yield of the clip. With sheep and lamb prices at levels not seen for years, the business is now reaping the rewards of staying in the game over eight decades, recently selling lambs at a handy $100/head. IMPROVING THEIR CLIP But it hasn’t always been an easy ride. Eric says that it wasn’t too long ago the business was only producing wool clips with an average of 25-micron, which he believes is relatively common in lower rainfall regions such as Western Australia’s central wheatbelt. 26 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2017