Drought conditions, especially in New England, bring good and bad issues with fleeces according to New England Wool managing director Andrew Blanch.
“Good – vegetable matter is particularly low so skirtings can be minimal and only a small neck needs to be removed,” he said. “Parts of the neck that do not match the style of the majority of the fleece should be removed if trying to make spinner types.
“Bad – more backs may need to be removed this season, and some more weakness will be evident, and will become a bigger issue for those shearing later in the season. Back legs tend to be the weakest and boldest part of any fleece, so if making spinner types, good to check here first and remove if necessary.”
He said wools will tend to be shorter than the previous season and there’s more likely to be a break.
“You may want to make a short line for wools around that 60-65mm,” Mr Blanch said. “These are still selling very well but should not be mixed with the main lines that should be more around 75-85mm.
“I suggest making a line of ‘weak’ wool still maintaining style and evenness. These are the staples that break close to the tip or base, or need a reasonable amount of force to break – but not sound enough for your main lines.
“Fleeces exhibiting mid breaks and very weak staples needing little force to break should make another line. If these fleeces can be identified on the table then don’t waste time taking backs and necks out. Just a very light “finger” skirting and keep fleece together.”
New England Wool has contracts in the market now that guarantee a premium for fleeces exhibiting spinner style, soundness and additional preparation.
“This gives incentive to go that extra mile in the shed and gives clear goal to classers,” Mr Blanch said. “In a contracted shed, it might be a good thing to explain this to shed and table staff so they understand why they are being asked to do some extra preparation.”
The market has opened solidly after the mid-year break in sales.
“Poorer, tender, high-VM types were slightly cheaper but the small selection of better types exhibiting style and soundness were keenly sought after by both Europe and China,” Mr Blanch said.
“I think buyers are aware of the seriousness of the drought and would well understand that there will be limited quantities of sound, stylish wools.
“In fact, it is clear now that overall quantities of wool will be less than in the previous season, so it is hard to see this market having any major weakness – barring any unforeseen circumstances around the world.
“Of course, access to finance is definitely an issue with the current high prices, so I envisage there will be times in the season where one or two major players in the market may have to slow their buying due to funding limitations. However, there seems to be demand from many quarters, and while one company may go quiet in a week, there are others lining up to take its place.
“I wish wool growers all the best, but most of all, I strongly hope for drought-breaking rains to allow a reprieve from expensive and time-consuming hand feeding and to make the most of the current strong markets for wool, sheep, lamb and beef.”