Farmers enjoying spike in prices

The merino market is the highest farmers have seen in 18 years. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The merino market is the highest farmers have seen in 18 years. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Merino farmers are lapping up a golden spell in high country farming.

High lamb, ewe and beef prices have combined with near-record prices for sub-16 micron fleece to put them in a sweet spot.

Rakaia Gorge farmer Paul Ensor, from Glenaan Station, said it was a good time to be farming.

He said the fine end of the merino market was the highest he’d seen in 18 years of farming, with the station’s 16.5 micron fleece making a clean price of $29.40 a kilogram ($19.50/kg greasy).

"Commodity prices are almost not at commodity levels, but at premium levels. Look across the board, lamb, beef and mutton are all at near record highs. The great thing is the meat schedule is holding up remarkably, which is giving everyone a bite of the cherry and not just the early ones."

Two decades ago, Glenaan was getting $11.20/kg clean ($7/kg greasy) for its wool and the previous high was $24/kg clean in 2011.

Mr Ensor, a director on the New Zealand Merino board, said there was a resurgence in fine wool demand in Europe, now that countries were opening up after Covid-19.

"They’ve had a horrific time in fine suiting with everyone sitting at home in Zoom meetings in their tracksuits instead of fine suits, but it’s coming back. Dressing well makes you feel good and the Europeans are sharp dressers."

Armidale Merino breeding ewes and lambs. PHOTO: MARK CLINTON
Armidale Merino breeding ewes and lambs. PHOTO: MARK CLINTON
This was an opportunity to pay off some debt, invest in environmental projects and absorb record input costs for fertiliser and glyphosate, he said.

Mr Ensor said crossbred to merino conversions were unlikely as breeding’s a slow process.

"But when you look at modelling for merino hogget finishing it’s still ahead of other enterprises we can run at 41c a kilogram. Historically it was more like 25c/kg."

The good times coincide with merino apparel company Icebreaker running a television campaign showing an outdoorsman dressed in glad-wrap to raise awareness about plastic content in clothing.

Mr Ensor says this would hopefully get people thinking more about merino’s natural assets.

"People think a lot about what they put in their bodies and not as much about what’s on their bodies."

Meanwhile, the Canterbury Merino Association has confirmed it is holding its Two Tooth Ewe Flock Competition over two days from March 24. Farmers will visit flocks in North Canterbury before a second day in Mid Canterbury.

Mr Ensor said they were expecting a good turnout as good prices always draw out more enthusiasm.

 - Tim Cronshaw

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