Superfine Merino bale sets record

By Mal Gill
December 1 2021 - 11:00pm
AWN State wool manager Greg Tilbrook with the showfloor sample of Neville and Kaye Dalton's 14.1 Superfine Merino wool that sold for 3600c/kg greasy, the highest price at the Western Wool Centre for 10 years.

A 202 kilogram bale of 14.1 micron Superfine Merino wool sold for $7272 last week, making it possibly the most expensive bale ever sold at the Western Wool Centre (WWC).

The 3600 cents ($36) per kilogram winning bid for lot 132 in the AWN catalogue was certainly the highest greasy wool price recorded at the WWC in the past 10 years, according to Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) technical controller Andrew Rickwood.

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With technical specifications of 71 millimetres staple length, 32N/kt strength, a comfort factor of 99.8 per cent and yielding 69.9pc, it was produced by Neville and Kaye Dalton, Wandoo Valley, Kojonup.

In February, when selling last season's annual clip, the Daltons achieved a top price of 2850c/kg greasy, which was the best price at the WWC since 2018, but they did even better with this season's 34-bale clip.

The Daltons' broker who had advised them to move the sale of their current wool clip forward, Stephen 'Squizzy' Squire, was also the AWN auctioneer selling their wool.

Mr Squire said later he had trouble keeping a smile off his face when he called 2800c/kg as the opening price for the single-bale lot 132 and a bidding war erupted from there.

Rob Bower, wool buyer for Sequoia Materials and Gavin O'Dwyer, buyer for Westcoast Wool & Livestock, repeatedly outbid each other for the lot, raising the ante in 100c jumps instead of the usual 1c increments, until Mr O'Dwyer made it clear he would not be outbid and upped his offer significantly to claim the lot at 3600c/kg.

A second Daltons single-bale lot of 14.6 micron Superfine wool sold to Techwool Trading for 2428c/kg.

It had specifications of 72mm length, 30N/kt strength, 99.9pc comfort factor and yield of 64pc.

Three other lots totalling 11 bales sold for between 2095c/kg and 2400c/kg, with Mr Bower successful in obtaining two of them and the third going to PJ Morris Wool.

Meliwa, Fremantle Wool Traders and United Wool Company bought the remaining lots of the Daltons' wool, with good competition for each lot.

After being told the good news by Mr Squire, Ms Dalton said she had written herself a note that morning which proved a portent of what was to be.

"I'd been outside cleaning up the yard after the rain we had and I came in and sat down for a cuppa and on a scrap of paper I wrote a little message to myself - 'I hope we are price makers, not price takers today'," she said.

"So it is just wonderful to get that much for our wool.

"It's a good reward for the effort that we put into looking after our sheep - keeping the nutrition even so you get the staple strength with the fine wool is the big thing.

"Also, the proper preparation of the fleece on the table.

"We (she and her husband) do our own preparation and Neville classes our wool.

"Our youngest son Alex came down from Kalgoorlie - he's a heavy vehicle mechanic at the mine - to help out during shearing.

"He did the pressing, Neville and I are getting on a bit so he did the physical stuff.

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"It's an old press and we kept telling him not to put too much in the bales or they'll be overweight."

Ms Dalton said shearing this year in their two-stand shed had taken longer than expected - from late August through to October - despite starting early because they knew they would have trouble getting shearers.

She said they had difficulty replacing one of two shearers who left part way through and there was a long time between the main shearing and shearers returning to shear their lambs.

The Daltons run a mixed-age flock of about 1000 Merino ewes, with 700 lambs this year, on their 417-hectare home farm and a 172ha adjacent block.

They grow their own hay and oats for sheep feed.

"We breed our own rams and every year we buy two from Ron Niven (The Grange) and we use a couple of other studs as well," Ms Dalton said.

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"With all the wet weather we didn't see any problems with the wool - there was no rot - and the sheep handled the wet with no sign of problems with the flies.

"But then our sheep dry out quicker than the heavy cutters, a day and they're dry, which helps with the flies."

Ms Dalton said Mr Squire "was dancing, he was that happy" when he told her what they got for their wool.

"We normally sell our wool in January or February - we take a look at how things are going the first few weeks after the Christmas break and put our wool in before all the fine wool comes up over east," she said.

"It was Squizzy who suggested we try something different this year and to put it up early.

"With all the problems they've had in China and with the shipping, we didn't know which way it (wool market) was going to go."

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Ms Dalton said her husband was not home at the time she got the call from Mr Squire, as he was helping their oldest son Lee harvest a crop on a leased property.

He received the good news just before somebad luck struck.

"I managed to get him just as he was climbing the steps back into the header to tell him about the prices, but a little bit later the equipment broke down apparently," she said.

The Daltons' wool sold as the WWC market bounced back on the second day, from a slide the previous day, despite a tiny offering of 2548 bales the first day blowing out to 4279 on the second day.

The Western Market Indicator finished the week up 9c at 1401c/kg.

Only the WWC's 18 micron price guide lost ground over the week, retreating 1c to finish at 1974c/kg, while the other micron price guides added between 1c and 5c after recovering the first trading day's losses.

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True to form, the Merino cardings indicator did something different and benefited from two days of solid gains to finish up 21c for the week at 879c/kg.

Apart from the 18.5 micron guide, the WWC's fleece price guides now all trail AWEX Melbourne and Sydney selling centre prices by at least 19c/kg.

This week, the WWC's offering is set to jump by 1086 bales to 7915.

The national wool offering is set to jump 3774 bales to 41,199.

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