> Sheep Farmer - Wool Update - July/August
Liz Ambler - BWMB
For the second successive year, cold, wet weather delayed the start of the new season. At the time of writing, the amount of wool received throughout the country was insufficient to give any indication of the general quality of the clip. However, the general condition of sheep in many areas suggests there will be a lot of broken wool this year.
As anticipated, the wool cheque is disappointing - down to an average 45p/kg - reflecting the drop in demand and prices during the last selling year. For the first time in three years, there will be a carry-over of unsold stock at the start of the new selling season in July. This is likely to total around 5 m.kg. but comprises generally more saleable wools than previously.
Britain produces less than 5% of world wool and is unable to influence the international market, which has suffered through generally reduced demand and little activity in China. In addition, because of adverse currency rates, in particular the strength of the $US, British Wool prices have suffered, in the same way as lamb prices, by being uncompetitive with comparable New Zealand types.
However, it's still worth bearing in mind that French producers will be lucky to receive 23p/kg that, elsewhere in Europe, the price is so low that it is not worth moving off the farm and that, without the Wool Board British farmers would now have to pay to dispose of their wool.
Now classed as a category 3 animal by-product waste, unwanted fleeces can only be incinerated and not burned, or buried, on-farm. In order to handle wool, all Wool Board depots are now required to have a Bio-Security clearance certificate and DEFRA is looking at on-farm collection centres.
As long as wool sheets are not opened and fleeces taken out, clips from a number of producers can be received and stored 'on-farm', prior to collection. If wool is taken out of the sheets, regulations are far more stringent, the farm is classed as a depot and will need a Bio-Security clearance certificate.
With low prices it is essential to pass back value to producers and depot re-organisation and rationalisation continues. Having taken over wool grading from H & C Pearce & Sons Ltd at the Thame and Bromyard, the BWMB is now handling 90% of the clip, with greater opportunity for improving operations and efficiencies.
The Thame depot is operating for the collection of wool and a new sheet-compacting machine has been installed to improve handling, storage and transport costs. Other machines are being used in depots in Galashiels, Denbigh, Carlisle and it is also planned to send one to the Isle of Wight where, last year, around 50 farmers produced 40,000 kgs.
This machine, which, together with an on-farm wool press, will be demonstrated at Sheep 2006, will be increasingly used at local collection centres in order to transport sheets cost effectively to large depots, whose operation will take advantage of efficiencies of scale.
Also on display will be the new farm display kit, available to producers for farm open days and country-side events.
Promotional activity continues at home and overseas. Among several British Wool products recently launched in the UK are new carpet designs incorporating a blend of natural Jacob and Shetland wools and a range of mattresses, quilts and pillows on sale in leading department stores. While in Tokyo, handknitting yarns are attracting attention following the Japan Hobby Show where the Board hosted a number of daily events including a Knit Café and a children's knitting workshop.
1. New farm display kits for open days and countryside events are an effective way of educating consumers of all ages of the benefits of wool.
2 Knitters flocked to knit with British Wool yarns at the recent Japan Hobby Show