WOOLGROWERS involved themselves enthusiastically in the Soft Rolling Skin (SRS) workshop held on a Frankland-Cranbrook farm on Thursday. The 46 sheep farmers' hosts were Hartville Downs principals Richie and Kate Clapin and speakers included Dr Jim Watts, Mittagong NSW, the developer of the SRS system, SRS sheep classers Ben Duxson and Allan Stewart, John Pike of the Riverina Institute of TAFE, NSW, and Tasmanian sheep breeder and woolgrower Anthony Archer. Dr Watts said the SRS Company was established in 1998 to operate a breeding quality assurance system which aimed to increase the supply of SRS wool to processors. How well has it achieved its aim? According to one follower of the SRS system, Mason Downs Merino stud founder and co-principal Len Grey, Cranbrook, the SRS system "is the greatest thing to happen to the Merino wool industry in modern times". "I've attended its workshops and a field day here and in Victoria. It expands our understanding of the factors influencing wool growth on the animal," Mr Grey said. Dr Watts said the breeding recipe for producing SRS wool was totally different to traditional methods used in Australia. Much of this new art was retained within the SRS Company Pty Ltd. Dr Watts acknowledged the research done on the development and arrangement of the wool follicles in sheep skins by Harold Carter in the 1940s, Ted Nay in the 1970s and more recently that by Phillip Moore and colleagues. "The new art in sheep breeding allows us to produce new generation fibres which are tailor-made for producing new and exciting products for new retail markets," Dr Watts said. "We are now producing wools that are measurably softer and finer than cashmere. "An SRS breeder this year has produced approximately 20 bales of wool under 15.0 micron with the finest bale being 13.0 micron. We're forecasting being able to produce wool under 18 micron in time." He said, apart from these fine wools, large volumes of SRS wool in the 18.0 to 21.0 micron range were being grown that were lustrous, super soft and highly elastic. Dr Watts said SRS wool was esteemed by a growing number of spinners and weavers in Asia, Europe and Australia and now among retailers. The SRS Company had organised a core of 42 Merino studs as seedstock producers. A network of hundreds of commercial woolgrowers across Australia were building supplies of SRS wool in millable volumes of repeated consistency and excellence. "There has been remarkably high prices paid for members' SRS wool throughout this year," Dr Watts said. "John Gill, Brookmount, Walcha, NSW, secured 9800c/kg for his 15.3 micron wool at last week's Newcastle wool sale. The Italian buyers are bidding spiritedly for bold and deep crimping non-traditional wool." Dr Watts said the door was wide open for station owners to make money out of fine wools from SRS breeding. He instanced the Brown family of Waanaring in far western NSW, who received 590c to 1218c/kg greasy for 12 bales of SRS hogget wool of 16.8 to 17.8 micron. He claimed the SRS workshops such as last week's workshops, including one at John and Vern Sattler's farm at Williams on Tuesday attended by 44 woolgrowers, refocused and reskilled sheep breeders. "Those attending learn the theory and practice of why SRS wools maximise returns for the woolgrower and processor," Dr Watts said. At Hartville Downs, Richie Clapin said he embarked on an SRS program in 1997. "I aimed to straighten up the base flock," he said. "We feel we can now introduce some new genes into our sheep, which we run hard and commercially. These days it's a matter of trying to make a dollar, so we're keeping it simple and we're fine tuning our management." Mostyn Trotter, studmaster of the Perillup Estate stud, Perillup, took flock hoggets and two young and one older ram to the Hartville Downs SRS workshop. They were used in exercises to teach the principles of SRS breeding. "We run our sheep commercially at about 3.5 adult sheep/acre (8.75/hectare)," Mr Trotter said. "Last season, in our 750mm rainfall area, our grown sheep averaged 7.8kg/head of wool of 24.7 micron, which had gone up by about 0.5 micron. "We aim to lower our micron and still increase the cut." Some of the Perillup Estate sheep were shorn at the workshop and drafted into two mobs as part of a workshop exercise to identify those sheep which had the right or wrong type of wool. Emphasised throughout the workshop was the deletion of the term "staple" and its replacing with the term "bundle" of fibres < wool fibres that lie aligned and free of tangles. Dr Watts said the SRS sheep would be plain bodied, open faced, with loose swinging fronts free of wrinkles and easy to shear, and free of neck collars. Eight of the Perillup Estate hoggets were shorn at the workshop. Four fleeces were assessed as good by SRS standards and four as less good. The good fleeces' microns were within the 16.8-18.2 range. The less one micron range was 19.0-20.2. The wool price was based on those for the last Primaries sale at Fremantle. The good rated fleeces values ranged from $44.87 to $78.77. The less good fleeces ranged from $21.34 to $28.17.