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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
February – March 2009 Beyond the Bale Quality control BEttEr PrEP, BEttEr PricE Simple steps to improve clip quality can help boost profitability clothing and cigarette butts. For many years woolgrowers, shearers and shed staff have done all they can to keep the clip clean. however, further improvements to clip quality can continue to do M a lot for profitability, says wool processor Michael hurley of australian country Spinners. “We’ve seen significant improvements in recent years, but there’s still a problem with dark and medullated fibre contamination,” he says. “Dark fibres are never oK. they simply can’t be used in many of our products due to colour requirements and dye consistency. coloured or stained wool doesn’t come out in the processing wash.” Michael says the processing pipeline consists of many stages, perhaps more than woolgrowers are aware of. “Besides creating manufacturing challenges, dark fibres significantly reduce the value of the final wool product, so the efforts of growers to provide a quality clip from the shed are vital.” two of australia’s prominent wool buyers, Stuart clayton of Modiano australia and tim Marwedel of Schneider australia, agree, suggesting that preparation standards within the shed are equally important. “We can tell when a clip hasn’t been prepared properly and we price it accordingly,” tim says. “it’s taken 12 months to produce the wool, so take the time to prepare the clip to attract maximum buying competition.” Stuart comments that if there are contaminants in the wool, the lot is priced according to the lowest common denominator. “So when processing options are restricted due to a fault like dark or medullated fibre, it brings down the whole line at auction,” Stuart says. “unclassed and unskirted wool lots costs much more in reduced prices at auction than the upfront cost of a wool classer or improved shed process.” program for the production of non-mulesed wool, which he has presented to the australian Wool Exchange (aWEX). as part of his hands-on approach to farming, Michael makes an effort to deal directly with supply-chain participants so he can incorporate their feedback into his production processes. he attends all wool markets where ‘Bally Glunin Park’ wool is sold, and has visited end users in italy to discuss delivery specifications for his ultrafine and superfine Merino wool. in response to feedback from exporters, Michael is shearing every eight months to meet the specifications of italian spinners who are looking for a particular length. he has been analysing his clip for a number of years, moving towards a fibre diameter of less than 18 microns. he has also worked to improve staple strength and has noted a relationship between staple strength and feed availability. “our pasture management program is about maintaining animal nutrition throughout the year and, as a result, maintaining the specifications required by the companies that buy our wool.” a lot of work is involved before shearing to enhance the fleece lines. “When we do a pre-shearing crutch we not only take the wig off, but we come down way below the cheek underneath the jowl and remove all of that seed mat. that improves the VM (vegetable matter) in our pieces line and, ultimately, improves wool preparation. “We now sell our pieces as a fleece line as well. the cost of doing that preparation has been well and truly absorbed in the increased value of the other end.” Michael enjoys a challenge, which is why he says he will continue to push the boundaries of experimentation and education. “i just couldn’t continue if it was just about carrying on the mundane day-to-day aspects of farming.” ? More information: Michael Blake, firstname.lastname@example.org Photo: auStralian country SPinnErS aWi project manager for wool harvesting Joe Sullivan says that much of the responsibility for a well-prepared clip rests with woolgrowers. “For wool classers and shed staff to do the best job they can, the woolgrower has to clearly communicate what’s required and make sure the conditions are optimum,” he says. “this means having the shed clean and prepared with adequate light and facilities, good staffing levels, and clear communication from the grower about issues like what mobs are coming through. “if the shed is congested, dark and understaffed, and it is not clear what mobs are coming through, then wool classers and wool handlers simply can’t do a good job.” Joe says it can lead to a year’s hard work being undone. “Every year, you work hard to produce a good wool clip, but in just five minutes you can bring all that hard work undone by not taking a few simple, small steps to present your wool to the market properly.” to help woolgrowers identify key steps to presenting a quality and profitable clip, aWi is producing a ‘Pick of the Draft’ DVD. it will demonstrate simple ideas that other woolgrowers have implemented, plus increases in profitability that can be gained from not cutting corners. ? More information: the ‘Pick of the Draft’ DVD will be available in May. To register your interest, contact Joe Sullivan, email@example.com ost woolgrowers are well aware of the problems associated with wool contamination by foreign objects, such as bale hooks, 11 Wool processor Michael Hurley, of australian Country spinners, says improving clip quality can do a lot for profitability and he fully supports the ‘pick of the Draft’ education program. Tips for a profiTable enTerprise Michael Blake throws himself into the task of running his wool- growing enterprise with enthusiasm, saying enjoyment of the work is crucial. “Without enjoyment of the job you won’t fully commit to decisions good or bad,” he says. Michael has a number of other tips for running a profitable sheep enterprise. l When preparing products for sale, don’t compromise on preparation – the end user or purchaser will adjust prices accordingly; this applies particularly to wool preparation. l Try to develop sound and long-lasting alliances for all products – a number of wool companies have alliance arms that gain good rewards for product sales. l Aim for higher averages on bigger volumes of wool, sheep and lamb sales – a small volume top price is soon eaten away by a large bottom price. l Back your own judgement. l Be cautious of consultants – you pay them whether the advice is good or bad. If you’ve lost confidence in your own judgement, why not re-educate yourself? The industry has many training days covering a vast array of information or more formalised courses that can provide skills to run a successful business. l Have a long-term plan, cost it and stick to it – trying to catch trends is very costly. l Try to sell across a number of markets – that way you should get a better average.
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009