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Wool quality and preparation are still superfine essentials

by Terry Sim, 19 May 2017

New ASWGA honorary life member Kevin Dunn, left, with ASWGA president Simon Cameron.

WOOL quality and preparation will continue to be essential to the viability of superfine wool growers, according to former industry leader Kevin Dunn.

Last weekend at the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association’s 2017 Re-union Dinner at Hamilton, Mr Dunn was made an honorary life member of the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association after more than 30 years’ service.

Mr Dunn said he had carefully avoided getting involved in commenting on what should be done since he retired. Diversification had saved most superfine wool-growing operations, he said.

But the former classer and stud breeder said maintaining wool quality and preparation were the two things that would determine “who lives and who dies.”

“I think there is a place for traditional tight crimping Saxon wools … I think there is a place for bolder crimping wools that test fine, but they are usually I think in different markets and there is a large number of them around now.”

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Mr Dunn would like to see the emphasis in breeding swing back towards the traditional true-to-count superfine wools.

“Because I think if you continue breeding from those bolder crimping ones they will eventually get bolder and not so finer in micron.

“I think the good stud breeders will put crosses back from the traditional ones every now and then just to ensure that they don’t go too far one way.”

Life’s a lot easier if you don’t put the rams out

ASWGA president Simon Cameron said Mr Dunn’s service to the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association was “pretty hard to beat.”

He was a founding member and served for more than 30 years on the regional committee and as a delegate to the national body. He was the regional president for 13 years and served at least four years as secretary and treasurer. Mr Dunn was also vice-president of the ASWGA for six years and national president for three years.

“The sort of commitment that Kevin has shown over a very long period of time is demonstrated very easily – I’ve struggled with the amount of work required in the task that I have undertaken.”

Mr Cameron said Mr Dunn told him that one year the ASWGA work got too much and he just didn’t put the rams out.

“The commitment of the guy to make that decision about the farm so that the ASWGA, its members and what is stands for could continue on – I think that that’s a huge commitment Kevin, thank you.”

Mr Cameron said Mr Dunn has always served with selfless expectation in the best interests of the association.

“Kevin’s not noted for self-praise, but this reinforces the quality of the man, his integrity, his honesty, and his love for family and superfine wool is what marks Kevin for the man that he is,” he said.

Mr Cameron said Mr Dunn had lived and farmed superfine wool Merinos in his area near Ararat all his life with his wife Margaret and family.

“He’s renowned in his district for the quality of stock and his animal husbandry skills.

“These have been the mantle of a truly professional superfine wool producer.”

Mr Dunn’s grandfather founded the Avondale flock in 1932 and the Avondale Hills stud was established in 1938 by Kevin’s late father Norman, based on Saxon bloodlines. In the 1970s Kevin Dunn took over the direction of the stud. Kevin Dunn is also a renowned wool classer and in 1989 he classed the Connorville clip that was sold by Roberts of Tasmania, realising a world record price of 300,850 cents per kilogram for one bale sold to Fujii Keori Ltd of Japan. Mr Cameron said Kevin Dunn was also an adviser and confidante to the Wimmera Wool Factory on breeding and producing ultrafine wool.

ASWGA still has a role to play

Mr Dunn said his father “had forgotten more about superfine wool than I will ever know.”

“He was the founder of the sort of sheep and wool that we have and he was much better at it than I was, but he wasn’t involved in organisations as I found myself – that wasn’t by choice.

“I was at the initial meeting that the late Arthurs Beggs called to found this association in Ararat in 1971 and I remember on the way home saying that I didn’t really see a great future for it,” he said.

“I thought that it was a bit of an old boys’ club and I didn’t think it would do too much for the industry – I’ve lived to regret that plenty of times because I think it has made an enormous difference to the industry and to superfine wool in general,” he said.

“That’s why I kept getting deeper and deeper involved and finished up as the national president for three years, and that’s an enormous honour.”

Mr Dunn also acknowledged other past superfine industry leaders, including Tony Gall, Barry Walker, Merv Mibus, Tom Harmsworth, Dick de Fegely and Rod Thirkell-Johnston.

“It’s been a great association … I think it has still got a part to play.

‘Sometimes we are expected to do more than we can, some people think that we are able to change the price of wool and things like, but we were never going to do that,” he said.

“It was always an organisation which was to bring together the growers and downstream processors – I think we did that pretty well and we still do that pretty well.”

“May the wool industry and ASWGA prosper.”

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