“IF you can’t make a profit out of sheep at the moment you shouldn’t be farming,” was the view of West Brookton woolgrower Len Simmons after the first trading day of the year at the Western Wool Centre (WWC).
Mr Simmons, who classes his own clip, sold 63 bales from an October shearing on the record-breaking opening trading day of the year for a sweep-the-floor average price of 1403 cents a kilogram greasy and to a top of 1533c/kg for his main line of 10 bales.
Yields for his 19-20 micron wool ranging from 71 to 75 per cent with very low vegetable matter (vm) contamination of 0.6pc or less.
“They’re the best prices I’ve ever seen since I’ve been back on the farm (47 years), they’re well above valuation,” said a very happy Mr Simmons after all his wool sold and with no obvious penalty for a line of nine bales of weaner wool with a longer-than-usual staple measuring 111 millimetres.
“I brought it (wool clip of 93 bales) down and got it tested straight after shearing so I knew what the results were,” he said on Wednesday last week at the WWC.
“We just keep a watch on the market and sold a few (bales) along the way.
“Carl (Primaries of WA wool broker Carl Poingdestre) suggested we put the remainder of it up on the first day and if we didn’t like how it (market) was looking we could always withdraw it.
“It’s been a really good season as far as we’re concerned.
“We’re all livestock, we don’t grow any crop, we buy all our feed in – we had 90 tonnes of lupins delivered Monday – and I still shear half the sheep myself.
“We shore 3800 sheep and lambs in October.
“We had to hand feed fairly heavily, but we got through.”
Mr Simmons said favourable sheep meat prices also helped profitability.
“We had 1600 lambs last year which we’ll have to offload so we’ll probably get as much from our sheep sales as we did from our wool sales,” he said.
“We sold our cull ewe hoggets straight out of the shearing shed and got $130 a head for them from an on-farm private sale.
“Old ewes we’re finished with, we got $90 a head on-farm bare shorn.”
Recently retired long-serving WoolProducers Australia director Max Watts, Wandering, was a little more circumspect in his appraisal of the prices he received for his 156 bales, but just as pleased.
“It’s a just reward for what has been a tough season,” Mr Watts said.
“We’ve had to hand feed a lot more, we bought lick feeders to feed them more regularly.
“We shore cull ewes in October to try and ease the load (on feeding) and we shore wethers and off-loaded them for the same reason.
“There’s not the feed value in the dry feed this season.
“We purchase a lot of lupins, we bought early, paid top dollar for them but they were clean.
“We’ve been feeding a lot more barley too.”
Mr Watts, who runs up to 13,000 sheep and lambs and this season mated 3500 to Merino rams and 2200 to White Suffolk, said he also brought his main shearing forward from January to November to ease pressure on feeding.
“I was happy with the wool,” he said.
“All our dry sheep are rotational grazed and we had tensile strength in the 40s and good yield.”
His wool, ranging from 17.7 to 19.5 micron with yields 68-75pc and staple lengths 86-111mm, sold to a top of 1665c/kg greasy.
Sweep-the-floor average price across his clip was 1418c/kg.
Mr Watts said one of the benefits for the industry of the high returns from wool was woolgrowers investing in sheep handling equipment like new yards.
“If we want to retain young people in the industry we have to do that, we have to make the job easier to do,” he said.
Ray and Denise Kowald, Beaufort River, were also very happy with their reward from a “shocking” season.
“We’ve been feeding sheep since January last year,” Mr Kowald said.
“I bought in quite a lot (of feed), we had a bit of crop in which I put into the silos then I bought in a heap of hay.
“We’ve sold off all our wethers this year to make our pasture last – it’s a long time until winter.
“But we’re very happy with the wool prices, it’s the best average we’ve ever had.”
The Kowalds sold 75 bales of 17.4-18.5 micron wool from an early December shearing for a sweep-the-floor average of 1386c/kg.
The top line of nine bales of their finer wool with specifications of 66.5pc yield, 2pc VM and 83mm staple length sold for 1700c/kg.