Wool tests reveal fibre diameters are on the up

Wools broaden as feed and other factors blow microns out

Sheepmeat
A bumper season off the back of a three-year drought may be one of the reasons fibre diameters are testing broader.

A bumper season off the back of a three-year drought may be one of the reasons fibre diameters are testing broader.

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Off the back of a three-year drought followed by a bumper season, wool microns are are on the up.

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With the spring ram selling season well underway, wool tests from young Merino rams have revealed microns are creeping up.

And although it seems the bulk of the increases are from areas most affected by the recent drought, industry experts believe it is a combination of factors, including industry progression, that has pushed microns broader.

Victorian farm consultant Belinda Steers, who collates information for Sheep Genetics, said the general consensus is fleece tests are about a micron to a micron and a half stronger across the board.

"Certainly from all of the NSW studs we work with we have found an increase," Ms Steers said.

"You can go out as far as Warren and it is all the same."

Ms Steers said although it has a lot to do with what they were fed in the autumn, she believes it is also a shift in breeding and selection.

"A lot of people were feeding them as lambs on grazing canola and silage which is very high in protein, and protein will blow the micron out," she said.

"But the other side of the coin is we have seen a lot of people using rams that are a bit stronger than normal.

"That is the catch-22 of chasing fat and eye muscle, because with that often comes a stronger micron."

She said some of the better eye muscling sheep are often positive for their micron.

"It is another catch-22 scenario. People haven't looked at it because they weren't worried about the wool for a while, it was all about getting the carcase right," she said.

"Then all of a sudden the micron has blown out. It hurts a bit when you go from 18.5 to 20 micron, and there is a big dollar factor to it as well."

Southern Queensland sheep industry consultant, Geoff Duddy, said while the impacts of poor nutrition on the ewe while her lamb is in utero can affect the entire lifetime of wool production, research shows micron only increases by point one to point two.

"There could have been some impact in utero through under-fed ewes during the drought, but I think it is a combination of factors," Mr Duddy said.

"Those being the drought followed by a bumper season with the main culprit being nutrition once the lambs hit the ground.

"Most of the rams we are talking about are only 12-months old, so 12-months ago they hit the ground, and they were in utero before that, so we are looking at a 17-month period.

"This was pretty well in the height of the drought. Most people would have been feeding grain, and everyone would have been watching their pennies, so whether or not they were feeding enough, particularly those twin-bearing ewes, could play a part."

He said once those lambs were born, the drought broke and they received a bulk of feed which has led to massive growth in wool staple.

"The last five to six-months has seen fantastic feed in areas and there is no way you could have stopped them blowing out," Mr Duddy said.

"No doubt there could be a genetic input, the lambs from twin-bearing ewes in particular are going to be a bit stronger throughout their lifetime, but it would only my minor."

But will the increase carry through into the commercial flocks?

Mr Duddy said producers who are worried about a broader micron ram influencing their overall flock micron, shouldn't be concerned.

"Because the cause of the increase points more to nutrition and season, it wont carry on to that extreme, there won't be that massive change genetically," he said.

"Flocks don't generally jump a micron between years, unless you change to rams three to four microns stronger or finer."

He suggested producers continue buying their rams along the same lines as they do every year.

"Look at confirmation, wool, structure and I suggest finding out if they were a single or twin when born, that will give more of an idea of how they have developed in utero and what their lifetime of wool is likely to be like," he said.

Ian Griffiths of Brundanella Merino stud, Grenfell, who successfully sold 98pc of his rams at his on-property ram sale recently, said the average micron for his draft of rams had increased by about one micron.

"It was the biggest increase we have had over the years," Mr Griffiths said.

"I believe nutrition influence on the unborn fetus affected the development of the secondary wool follicles which determine the softness and fineness of the fleece."

The story Wool tests reveal fibre diameters are on the up first appeared on Farm Online.

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