GOOD seasonal conditions providing more green feed for longer for sheep have been reflected in statistical data for Western Australian wools tested during the first half of the current season.
Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) statistics from wool tests during the July 1 to December 31 period show the average WA wool yield was 64.5 per cent, up from 62.7pc in the first half of the previous season.
But this is still slightly behind - although closing in on - the national average yield of 65.3pc for the period.
The AWTA national yield average was boosted by Tasmania's 70pc average yield, but compared to the other major wool-producing States, WA's average yield was 2.7pc better than South Australia's average, 1.4pc behind Victoria's and 2pc down on the average wool yield in New South Wales.
Mean WA wool fibre diameter across the six months was 19.6 microns, growing 0.4 of a micron compared to the first half of the previous season, according to AWTA's statistics.
Like average yields, WA's median fibre diameter also trailed the national average, down slightly to 20.6 microns, but was 0.1 micron broader than the NSW average fibre diameter and remained finer than the SA and Victorian averages of 20.5 and 21.4 microns.
But while WA wools grew broader than for the same period of the previous season, average NSW, SA and Victorian wool fibre diameters shrunk slightly in the first half of the season, compared to the previous season.
The average coefficient of variation in diameter (CVD) declined slightly to 20.9pc in WA, better than the national average of 21.2pc and 21.4pc and 21.7pc respectively in SA and Victoria - fibre diameter variation increased in those States - and was only 0.1pc behind the NSW average.
The better season in WA was most clearly demonstrated in AWTA's average staple length statistics across the six months, with the local average wool 3.6 millimetres longer at 91.4mm so far this season.
By comparison, the national average staple length declined 0.4mm to 89.4mm and NSW, Victorian and SA wools were all shorter this season than they were during the same period last season.
WA wools were also 1.3Nkt stronger, at an average of 32.2Nkt, so far this season.
National average wool strength improved 0.9Nkt in the same period, but was better at 35Nkt - boosted by a 3.7Nkt gain in average NSW wool strength to 37Nkt.
Frequent rains also washed WA wools clean while they were still on the sheep.
Average vegetable matter (VM) contamination in WA wool was just 1.3pc, the lowest level in any State apart from Tasmania.
Mainly as a consequence of the better season and the general broadening of wools this season, the percentage of the total WA wool clip classed as Superfine, at less than 19.5 microns, plummeted from 69pc in the first half of last season to 54.9pc in the first half of the current season.
It was the biggest change in wool clips across Australia, with Queensland (-11.3pc) and NSW (-0.6pc) the only other states to lose Superfine percentage.
But while WA wools have tested longer, stronger and higher yielding so far this season, AWTA statistics show that ultimately less wool has been tested than in the corresponding half of the previous season.
So far this season in WA AWTA has tested 167,047 bales (-6.6pc) weighing a total of 29,859.9 tonnes
(-6.2pc), compared to 178,919 bales and 31,837.6t last season.
Victoria and Tasmania are the only other States where the number of bales and weight of wool tested has dropped so far this season - by a little over 3pc in Victoria and by a massive 37pc in Tasmania.
Nationally, AWTA has tested a total of 897,827 bales weighing a total of 160,640t, down 2.1pc and 2.2pc respectively on the first half of last season.
p Last month, the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee predicted shorn wool production in Australia will increase 8pc on 2020-21 production, to 318 million kilograms greasy this season.
The committee's December forecast was an upward revision of its August forecast of 310mkg.
Committee chairman Russell Pattinson said widespread November rain across most wool producing regions "will build on the already exceptional spring season".
"Pasture feed is plentiful in many grazing regions, while in farming areas crop stubbles will also contribute to an ample supply of summer feed," Mr Pattinson said.
"The abundant feed supply is expected to increase average cut per head by 3.2pc to 4.54kg greasy," he said.
There is also evidence of a flock rebuild, the committee indicated, with an expected 4.6pc increase in the number of sheep shorn, to 70 million head this season.
The favourable seasonal outlook is also promoting high levels of optimism among sheep producers, it said.
The committee confirmed its August estimate of shorn wool production for the 2020-21 season at 294mkg greasy, a 3.7pc increase on the 284mkg produced in the 2019-20 season.
Want weekly news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Farm Weekly newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.