Working from home for a period of approximately eight weeks, allows awareness of how life can be changed by something completely beyond our control. A lot of New Zealanders can reflect on how their lives change in an instant, through earthquakes, extreme weather events, global financial crisis and shootings. Whilst all of us who have been impacted by any of these events, could relate somewhat to a sudden upheaval turning our world upside down, none of us in “god zone” could imagine how COVID-19, a disease festering in a faraway place, would create extreme havoc across the entire planet resulting in, not only significant loss of human life, but also the crippling of businesses due to immediate cash-flow withdrawal.
From a global wool perspective, the spread of disease quickly impacted Asia and Europe forcing partial closure of mills due to illness, but also to protect the healthy. As global demand ceased for unessential goods, such as many apparel items, carpets and furnishing textiles, more complete closure followed. Obviously, a lack of demand for finished woollen goods forced the wool pipeline to slow significantly and export shipping preference was for food stuffs and perishables. With hotels and shipping cruise liners accounting for major consumption growth of woollen carpets and interior textiles in the past, and New Zealand a huge contributor to those manufacturing industries, it should come as no surprise that the entire wool pipeline from farm to export would find itself between a rock and a hard place.
Wool auction sales ceased in New Zealand after 19th March and an agreement between wool brokers and exporters that a limited and orderly flow of wool to market should recommence as we re-enter wool auctions. The original wool auction sales roster drawn up for the 2020/21 season had allowed for more than 80,000 bales to be offered after 19th March and before 28th May, with a further 45,000 bales offered by 30th June, therefore a resumption of auctions was going to be a challenge with agreed maximum offerings of 7,000 bales for each of the first two auctions, Napier and Christchurch.
North Island wool brokers resumed auctions on 21st May in Napier where around 60% of the 7,000 bales catalogued were cleared to the export trade from the auctioneer’s rostrum. Prices for good to average crossbred types, including full length fleece and variable length second-shear, were quoted between approximately 15% and 25% cheaper compared to 19th March. Lamb’s wool and all oddment prices were very subdued, with poor colour and vegetable matter contaminated types suffering from extremely limited buyer interest. Exporters representing Chinese processors were the major buyers of most types sold on the day.
The wool industry generally has suffered a long period of weak pricing and, apart from some finer wool types which had experienced a few years of improvement until recently, did not need a pandemic to create further distress! However, if the years of hard work by Kiwi exporters and marketers around the world, expelling the virtues and benefits of New Zealand wool, are eventually realized. Along with various individuals and wool groups continuing to lobby government and local councils within New Zealand to specify wool products are used in educational institutions, government buildings and housing, we might begin to see some light at the end of, what is currently, a rather dark, gloomy tunnel. I hear that home knitting is making a come-back around the globe, however I’m not convinced that could be our savior!
That’s my view.
Wool Procurement Manager
PGG Wrightson Wool
Put any type of sheep in front of shearer Angus Moore and he won’t be fazed.
The 35-year-old Marlborough shearer and shearing contractor talks more like a sheep breeder, with an appreciation of wool genetics and sheep structure, that shows his farming genealogy.
His technique of elegantly removing a fleece; fine wool, second shear or strong wool, up against the clock, was shown to be the best in New Zealand. Moore won the prestigious Multi Breeds Shearing section of the PGG Wrightson Wool National Shearing Circuit, held at the 2020 Golden Shears event.
Moore has won the right to represent NZ at the Trans-Tasman Shearing Competition. He also has the use of a Hyundai Santa Fe for a year. One of the first jobs for the seven-seater after the Covid Pandemic lockdown will be delivering two of Angus and Ratapu’s six children to Seddon School. The couple welcomed another baby in May.
Despite a busy family life and a shearing run from the Clarence River to the Marlborough Sounds, and St Arnaud, Angus accumulated enough points through the Summer Show circuit to qualify for the final at Golden Shears.
“I couldn’t make all five qualifiers so aimed to qualify by shearing Merino wethers at Alexandra, Corriedales at the Christchurch Show, and second-shear Romneys at Paihatua.”
Moore made it through to the semi-final as number ten of twelve shearers. Here they shore three sheep of each type, in a very technical competition.
“It was a really great event, shearing in front of four thousand people plus thousands watching online.”
“I tried to shear the three Merinos and three Corriedales well, using my experience there, as we are used to shearing more fine and mid-micron sheep in Marlborough, compared to crossbreds, especially second-shear in other parts of the country.”
“Other boys were probably faster than me.”
Moore also won the competition in 2012. From Marlborough farming stock, Angus built up shearing skills at home then around NZ on the job. Hugely humble, he credits his success to support from his wife and particular help from competition shearers Sam and Emily Welch, Dion Morrell, Chris Jones and Paul Paikea, his wife’s uncle.
“There are so many people whom I have learnt from.”
The Moore’s shearing gang is a family affair and very supportive.
“My brother in law is one of our main shearers in our gang and is awesome, and two of Ratapu’s sisters continue to help when they can.”
“The whole gang gets along very well, and is always keen to do a good job for us and our farmers.”
“Competitions give me something more to aim at in terms of professional development, to be better than I was yesterday.”
“It puts you among people who are really passionate about wool and the industry.”
Angus and Ratapu purchased their first run from Joe Douglas in 2016, then added another a year later. About 15% of the run are Merinos, 60% Corriedales or halfbreds and 25% stronger wool sheep.
He said he is very blessed with the farmers he shears for.
“They are keen to work together and take pride in what they do with their wool.”
He closely follows the changes in the genetics of flocks and will be interested to see how the trend to reduce micron plays out. He rates the Saxon-based Isolation merino flock of Rob and Sally Peter, Marlborough, as something really special, with their clip weights and style. Their composites produce a fat lamb, so they have both ends of the spectrum covered.
“The Glen Orkney flock of the Harvey family is a dream to shear with good body frames and super wool weights of six to seven kilograms, with length.”
He has noticed some mid-micron flocks moving about two microns finer and is interested to see how the breeders of mid-micron will improve their genetics.
“A challenge is getting the trend of the Romney/Merino cross right, as there is a high potential of colour in the fleece.”
“If they can crack the wool bit, the structure, carcass and feet will be improved.”
He also noted the work Corriedale breeders are doing in this area.
Dave Carr, Chairman of the PGG Wrightson Wool National Shearing Circuit, rates the Multi Breeds Competition as the pinnacle of NZ shearing.
“For a shearer to get up on the board faced with five different types of wool, under the pressure of judges, time and the other competitors, makes for a truly unique event.”
Carr praised Moore’s dedication to his whanau and industry.
“Angus and Ratapu have built up a shearing run in Marlborough, based on the professional attitudes they have both learned along the way.”
The competition has run for 48 years, with PGG Wrightson Wool sponsoring the National Shearing Circuit for 18 years.
Written by Joanna Grigg
Supplied by Country Wide
Photo by Pete Nikolaison
PGG Wrightson GM for wool, Grant Edwards joins The Country's Jamie Mackay to look at how the wool market is faring this month, post New Zealand's Covid-19 lockdown.
Mackay said the wool market was in real trouble as it was down 25 per cent from where it was in late February and early March. Two recent auctions saw full length crossbred fleece least affected and strong lamb's wool suffering the most, taking a 35-40 per cent hit.
New Zealand was not alone, as Australian wool prices had also taken a hit and fine wool prices had halved since September 2019, said Mackay.
For some historic perspective Mackay spoke of 1968 where he would get NZD $5 at auction for strong wool, and that same wool today was estimated to get NZD $1.70 a kilo.
Edwards talked about how Covid-19 had impacted the supply chain as New Zealand wool ends up in end-garments, carpets and upholstery throughout Europe and USA and key end-user markets, which had been shut down and were only now starting to open again.
Edwards believed there would be a bounce-back after Covid-19 and when trade started to resume. It was going to come down to timing of when and where.
Edwards was convinced that the long term outcome for wool was very positive because of wool's sustainability and environmentally friendly properties, especially with the younger generation being more conscious of their product consumption and usage.
For more Information on New Zealand's Covid19 response and Alert Levels please visit covid19.govt.nz/