Backpackers get wool industry insight

28 Jun, 2016 02:00 AM
Greg Tillbrook (left), Leno Vigolo, Russell Grago and daughter Millie with backpackers Lisa Reich and Mortiz Strobl.
Greg Tillbrook (left), Leno Vigolo, Russell Grago and daughter Millie with backpackers Lisa Reich and Mortiz Strobl.

FOR two young international backpackers, an introduction to the wool industry while staying at Trewin farm and feedlot, Coomberdale, was an education as well as a working holiday.

Lisa Reich from Alberta, Canada, and Moritz Strobl from Bavaria, Germany, last week toured Primaries of WA wool store and show floor, the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) and Western Wool Centre (WWC) at Bibra Lake to learn what happens to the Trewin clip after it leaves the farm.

The tours were organised by their employer Russell Crago, who accompanied them with his daughter Millie, 9, to round out their education on Australia's wool industry.

Both are leaving soon, with Mr Strobl flying back to Germany in three weeks and Ms Reich intending to see some more of Australia before she returns home in about a month.

Mr Strobl had worked for Mr Crago since September and Ms Reich started in February.

Neither had anything to do with sheep before they came to Australia to work for Mr Crago on the 2500 hectare property.

Mr Crago breeds 2000 Merino-White Suffolk lambs a year and turns over about 3000 mixed-breed lambs and 900-1000 head of cattle, including bought-in stock which is sold after 120 days.

Mr Crago shears a couple of times a year as his bought-in sheep are all shorn before being turned out.

"The farming here is very different to Canada," said Ms Reich, whose parents run Simmental cattle which in winter sometimes have to struggle through knee-deep snow to central feed pads because tractors cannot get feed out to the paddocks.

It was also very different in Bavaria where Mr Strobl said he would be helping an aunt and uncle harvest on their farm when he returned home.

"They grow some wheat, sugar beet and corn, but their crops are mainly sold for biomass fuel which is used to generate electricity," he said.

Mr Crago said Ms Reich and Mr Strobl had worked well and gained a range of new farming experiences, although Ms Reich "definitely preferred working with cattle than with sheep" because of her background.

The pair also witnessed how a WA cropping program works with 1500ha of Trewin recently sown with oats for hay, wheat, lupins and barley.

"We sell what we grow and buy in seconds for stock feed," Mr Crago said.

This was the third time he has employed overseas backpacker workers and each time he has taken them on a Primaries, AWTA and WWC tour to further their knowledge of the WA wool industry before they left.

p On Thursday last week Ms Reich and Mr Strobl saw wool prices rebound after a slide the previous day.

After prices for finer and mid-micron wools shed 20 to 25 cents per kilogram clean on the Wednesday, broader 21 and 22-micron wools led the WWC market back up 10-15c/kg on Thursday with a small offering of 2166 bales compared to 3355 the day before.

The Western Indicator finished Thursday up 5c/kg to 1362, but down 8c for the week.

Specialty lots pulled out of store but failing to meet the reserve price pushed Thursday's pass-in rate to 10.7 per cent.

But mid-micron wool prices were still 71-75c higher than their average for the season and fine and broader micron wool prices were 51-60c and 61-65c higher than their season average.

One high point was the fully firm prices for Merino skirtings and locks and crutchings, driven by strong demand for open top wools and a very small offering.

"When pieces and lambs' wool prices are getting close to fleece prices, you know it's a good market," Primaries of WA wool manager Greg Tilbrook said.

There are no wool sales at the WWC this week and the final sales this season are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday next week.

Into the new season there will be WWC sales the first two weeks of July then the wool auction selling system across Australia will take its annual three-week break.

Mal Gill

Mal Gill

is wool and dairy writer for Farm Weekly


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