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Beyond the Bale : June 2017
"Many farmers have paddocks that they really should not be cropping and the recent highs are giving them the opportunity to switch back to sheep in some way." While Andrew is positive about the longer- term outlook, he says nothing defeats high prices like high prices. "While nominally we are at 30 year highs, we are still at levels below 2011 values in terms of the US dollar, and it will take a while to increase supply. "Regardless of the high prices and increasing flock numbers I am optimistic the price can last for a few years." ADDRESSING PRESENCE OF OJD While strong wool prices are now taking centre stage, the road to wool profitability hasn't always been smooth for the Ewens. Scott and Melanie purchased a property that had a widely documented Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD) problem, and like many farm businesses tackling the devastating disease, they had to make the tough financial decision to invest in a wide scale vaccination program. "While we never did have a positive OJD test, we knew the disease was present, so we had to sort that out before we could improve and increase the flock," he says. "This farm used to be a depot for sheep coming in from the eastern states, so we think that is how it originated. "But we purchased the property knowing the disease was present, so we knew we were in for a major clean-up program." The Ewens reduced stocking rates to destress the sheep and to reduce the severity of the disease, to between 10 and 11.5 dse -- a relatively low rate for an area that receives upwards of 600 mm of rainfall in a year. Since the control of the disease, Scott can now increase his rates to back to 14.2 dse this coming year. "There is light at the end of that tunnel, that's for sure," he said. POSITIVE FUTURE Scott says he looks forward to continuing to run Merinos in the future. "This is an exciting time to be in the wool industry, and we are hoping prices and confidence continue to remain high." Andrew believes lower world supply availability combined with a market need for quality wool is driving the price spike. "It may also be that the great story about wool as a premium fibre is finally starting to get traction," he says. "Our Merino wool enterprise is much more profitable than the cropping part of the business." Scott Ewen, WA woolgrower The MyMobTracker app was featured by Mr Wilson at the Sheep Easy Field Day, organised by AWI's producer network The Sheep's Back, in September at Northam in Western Australia. "MyMobTracker is a simple, accurate and easy to use web-based app that can be used on a smartphone. It keeps track of stock movements, numbers, and actions such as marking, joining, pregnancy scanning, condition scores and weaning," explained Allan Wilson from Katanning in Western Australia, who created the app. "It also tracks water quality and quantity and automatically calculates stocking rates. All sheep are identified according to the NLIS colour coded year, which is now standardized across Australia. "Using a drop-down treatment menu, which includes all chemicals available in Australia, farmers can record dips, drenches and vaccines, even down to the batch number. "MyMobTracker is effectively the modern version of the old notebook in the ute -- it's your flock in your pocket." The app also includes a sales and purchase function, to record stock bought and sold, and has the capacity to enter National Vendor Declaration codes to aid traceability. Information input is date stamped to ensure data integrity. Mr Wilson said one of the key benefits of MyMobTracker is its mobility and simplicity, and its capacity to share recorded actions with other members of the enterprise by using their mobile phones. "MyMobTracker means all farm staff will know exactly what's happened to every mob as soon as it's happened, and as principal, I will know what they've done and when they've done it, simply by viewing the activity log. It also creates a historical record of the enterprise," he said. While MyMobTracker is a web-based app that operates through the use of mobile phones, it is backed up online through the website. That means that even if there is no mobile coverage in the paddock, once there is connectivity again it will automatically update the website, as well as the mobile phones of other users. MyMobTracker is available for a free three- month trial period. Mr Wilson said there has been a huge amount of interest shown to date with people utilising the three-month free trial period. MORE INFORMATION www.mymobtracker.com.au www.facebook.com/mymobtracker Sheep producer Allan Wilson has created and launched an online tool that can help woolgrowers record details of their flocks and share the information with their farm staff. MY MOB TRACKER APP KEEPS YOUR FLOCK IN YOUR POCKET Katanning sheep producer Allan Wilson who produced the MyMobTracker smartphone app. ON FARM 35