Wool cheque less than costs so grower going all meat

The decision was made for Bruce Wills to go all-meat farming when his wool cheque this year did not cover his shearing costs.

After 50 years' sheep breeding and growing wool, the president of Federated Farmers meat and wool section said he was reacting to market signals by deciding to only use terminal sire rams over his North Island East Coast ewe flock.

His cattle numbers have grown and his flock has shrunk over the past two years from 6500 to 3000 ewes, initially in response to frustration at low lamb prices, but then drought, and latterly a wool industry he described as "a shambles".

"It really hurts me. New Zealand farming has survived on a dual purpose sheep for decades," he said of his decision to only use terminal sires.

Althoug he had not yet done his accounts, Mr Wills said for the first time in the 50 years his family had farmed the Napier property, the wool cheque would not cover the costs of shearing, packaging, carting and sale.

Mr Wills said last year he thought wool prices could go no lower, but he was unlucky enough to sell the bulk of his clip at the disastrous March 26 sale, when 40% of the offering was passed in.

He was horrified to receive prices up to half that of the 2008-09 selling season.

Farmers had to take some responsibility for not funding promotion and for not taking ownership of the industry, he said.

"It's our industry and we've let ourselves get into the situation we are in."

There was a dearth of information and incentive for sheep farmers to remain wool producers.

They were looking for a glimmer of hope, he said.

Farmers did not want to pay for generic wool promotion, but Mr Wills said they understood they would have to pay for some targeted marketing.

It was his opinion Wool Partners International (WPI) had a model that could turn the industry around; that as a co-operative owned by farmers it could regain farmer control of the industry.

"I think WPI has got a pretty good story to tell, and I'm putting my hand up and supporting it," he said.

Declining wool volume would force some exporters out of business, which Mr Wills hoped would force other companies to rationalise and improve efficiency.


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