Long-stapled fleeces are now the norm among many flocks and the extra length grown during a 12-month period has prompted some growers to consider an eight-month shearing and, in some cases, a six-month shearing is being used by some.
One sheep producer spoken to by The Land said he had started to shear his maiden ewes each six-months to assist the sheep in lifting their body weight with an intended trade-off of increased lambing percentage being greater than the extra cost.
Meanwhile, Mick Inder, “Mayfield”, Dunedoo, sparked a discussion about six-month shearing when the judges for the Chris Naake Memorial flock ewe competition in the Mudgee region inspected his flock.
I am not saying it’s the way to go but with no harvest, it was a good time to do it
He told the judges, Jono Merriman, Merrignee and Koonwarra studs, Boorowa, and Rodney Kent, Kurrajong Park stud, Delungra, and onlookers that he decided last November to shear his maiden ewes at six months because of the poor season.
With failed winter crops and the header parked in the shed, Mr Inder had the perfect opportunity to shear his Langdene-blood maiden ewes at six months to generate some cash flow.
They cut 4.7kgs of wool (compared with a flock average of 7.5kg for 12 months growth) with a staple length of 70mm but tested almost a full micron higher than the flock average of 18.5.
“I am not saying it’s the way to go but with no harvest, it was a good time to do it,” Mr Inder said. But he said the blow-out in micron was of concern.
Mr Merriman wasn’t enthusiastic about the move, long-term.
Brett Cooper, ewe competition organiser and AWN’s Central West NSW regional manager, said six-month shearing improved lambing rates and also delivered animal welfare benefits.
He said wool with a staple length of 70mm attracted minimal discounts.
Similar discussions were had during the Bookham Merino Ewe Competition, with one local producer, Bruce Hazel, “Kia-Ora”, Bookham asking judges, Jono Merriman, Merrignee and Koonwarra studs, Boorowa and Simon Flick, Boorowa-based Landmark wool specialist, their thoughts on the value of bi-annual shearing.
Mr Flick rose to the occasion and expressed the thought six-month shearing could be a useful management tool for some producers, although staple length would need to be 60mm as there is a discount for 50mm.
“If you are going to make the leap, six-monthly would be a good move, you will do away with crutching but you will offset the extra shearing cost against that forgone crutching cost,” he said.
“The eight-month shearings last for a few years, but most people throw it away after three years.”
However Mr Flick advised caution if the sheep couldn’t grow a 60mm staple.
“They have to grow 55-60mm of wool with 50mm copping a three dollar discount,” he said.
“But it does an amazing thing on the sheep’s health, you can maintain their condition a lot easier.”