Former AWI director proposes wool rethink after $35m sale

Terry Sim, March 6, 2024

AWI director Noel Henderson at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show last year.

PREMIER superfine wool aggregation Avington in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges has been sold to the Southern Pastoral Group for $35 million.

The 1900 hectare aggregation was offered by owners Noel and Lyndsay Henderson via expressions of interest on a walk-in-walk-out basis — including registered superfine and ultrafine studs and flock sheep totalling about 16,000 sheep, plant and equipment — or on a bare basis closing on December 8 last year.

Mr Henderson said Southern Pastoral purchased the main Avington farm of 1214ha and another 686ha parcel plus most of the plant and equipment and most of the superfine Merino flock, with some going to Glenara. Avington’s ultrafine flock was sold to the well-known award-winning operation Pyrenees Park, he said.

Avington Merinos on the central Victorian property.

Selling agents Shane McIntyre and Matt Childs from CBRE Agribusiness said the quality and integrity of the fleeces produced by Avington Merino are renowned for their consistency of crimp and lustre. The enterprise also benefited from a supply agreement with one of Europe’s finest textile manufacturers that rewarded Avington for its highly sought after superfine and ultrafine wools. The Avington flock has utilized infusions from The Grange, Glenara and Merryville, Mr Henderson said.

Mr Henderson the Avington manager and staff retain their positions and were now working for Southern Pastoral, and the Hendersons were now living in Bendigo and intended to do some travelling.

Avington is situated at Sidona, 75 minutes from Melbourne. For the past 26 years it has been owned by former Australian Wool Innovation director Mr Henderson and his wife. They founded Avington Merino in 1996 and were regarded as one of Australia’s leading growers of luxury Merino wool.

Wool industry challenge is marketing

Mr Henderson said the sale of the property and sheep finishes his formal involvement in the industry.

He said the wool industry is facing an enormous challenge in that growers are price takers.

“I think the growers have got to get more involved in the whole mechanism of selling, exporting and processing of the wool.

“That’s the challenge to make sure they can get a more competitive price for the wool – you can see the (price benchmark) Eastern Market Indicator is just not moving,” he said.

“There are still some decent prices for superfine wool, but they are not much different to what they were 10 years ago.

“Everybody is clipping the ticket except the wool grower, and they are facing continuously increasing costs but they’ve got no way to pass them,” Mr Henderson said.

“I think that is a threat.”

The movement of younger farmers toward cropping is also a threat to wool production, he said.

“Producing wool is not easy, there is no question about that, but it is enormously enjoyable – it’s a wonderful product.

“The growers need to get more involved in the whole supply chain and not just send the wool to the store and hope that someone is going to pay them a good price – they’ve got to influence it much more.”

Mr Henderson said AWI’s mandate is to focus on research, development and marketing and suggested that perhaps it is too narrow.

“Marketing has got to be about more than just selling the product; marketing has got to be selling the product at a price that’s going to enrich the grower; that’s the missing l;ink.”

About 87 percent of Avington property has been used as a sheep breeding and grazing platform, currently running 14 dry sheep equivalents per hectare or more than 15,000 DSE. The agents said the gently sloping country features fertile granite loam and clay soils with an extensive fertiliser history and a fully automated and reliable stock water system.

They said it is one of the most thoughtfully improved properties in Victoria.

“The Hendersons have intensively developed the property with state-of-the-art operational infrastructure and efficiencies including an architect designed residence, sheep handling facilities, water security and pasture development.”

“They have also used the latest technologies and materials to maximize productivity and retain optimum levels of animal welfare for breeding and wool production.”

An aerial view of Avington.


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  1. Doug Wright, March 9, 2024

    Interesting comments re AWI. I wonder were these views expressed around board table and if so what was the reaction?

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