20 Dec 2012

Farmers aim double returns with finer wool

2:06 pm on 20 December 2012

Romney sheep farmers tired of waiting for prices and demand to improve for cross-bred carpet wools are on a mission to change the wool their flocks produce.

Romney New Zealand has set up a project with Lincoln University and others with the aim of growing finer fleeces to use for a new range of blankets and outdoor wear.

The organisation's president, Canterbury farmer Hugh Taylor, says it was a case of waiting for change or grabbing the initiative.

He says new technology available through Pastoral Measurements Ltd, which allows growers to measure individual animals on farm, was one of the things that brought it about.

Mr Taylor says that allows them to identify the finer wool producing sheep to use for breeding.

He says it will take five or six generations to get that wool a lot finer.

"We're looking at driving it down to 30-odd micron, we know we're going to lose some weight, but we believe the value, if we get down that low, will double the price."

Mr Taylor says ewes and studs with finer wool have been bred on his property and there's already a difference in the lambs from that first generation.

He says farmers with breeds already producing finer wools, such as Perendale and Corriedale, are also being brought into the project to provide immediate supplies of the type of wool they're aiming for.

It will be processed into yarn at the Bruce Woollen Mill in Milton and woven into cloth at another plant in Palmerston North bought by farmer investment company Wool Equities.

Wool Equities chairman Cliff Heath said the outlook for woollen clothing products is brighter than the carpet trade at present. There is demand for heavier cloth for coating, blanketing and bedding, he said, so there is a genuine economic reason to produce the cloth.