How would you make Australia’s Merino industry great again?

Sheep Central, February 28, 2024

Robert Herrmann – let’s make Merino great again.

SHEEP industry analyst Robert Herrmann will put the case to make the Merino wool industry great again at the Balmoral Breeders Sire Evaluation Field Day in western Victoria on Friday.

The field day starts at 10am on Warooka at 668 Dundas Gap Rd, Melville Forest, with an inspection of the progeny of 25 Merino sires and continues at Austral Park at 121 Austral Park Rd, Tarranlea, at noon.

Mr Herrmann will speak at around 2pm at Austral Park and Merino breeders will also hear from Australian Merino Sire Evaluation executive officer Ben Swain.

The Mecardo principal said his key points are that at Balmoral Breeders participants are happily wedded to the Merino industry and know they had a “magnificent product” in the genetic resource.

“I think without question the Merino genetics are at their peak after 200 years of breeding.”

He said global apparel wool customers are worried about sustainability, the environment and provenance.

“But the question is why do we now have in a flock that since 1990 has gone from 170 million, with 90 percent of the wool sold Merino, down to just under 80 million sheep, with only about 75-76pc are Merinos?

“If everything is so good, why is that the situation?” he asked.

“And I think the answer is that we have lost the fight for acres because we haven’t been able to compete with cropping in terms of their innovation.”

Mr Herrmann said he would reference WoolProducers Australia’s Trust in Wool initiative and the proposed wool traceability hub in his presentation, as vehicles to advance the provenance of the industry’s product to its customers.

But he said Australian Merino breeders and sheep producers need to become raving fans or advocates for their sector.

“And explain to people that we can do things well and we have got science behind us and that we are innovating into better systems – you’ve got to actually sell the story.

“If there is a loose heading to what I’m saying it is ‘How we make Merino great again’.”


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  1. Brendan Mahoney, March 1, 2024

    The lost acres is a cop out. Last year 6 percent of wool was sold below the cost of its synthetic equivalent. There is no tax on the micro fibres that are causing pollution problems. Synthetic materials are far inferior to wool, but AWI marketing is so bad. AWI is being controlled by the federal government and $45 million a year should make a difference but poor, lazy management sees people like you looking for scapegoats. Lack of acres to cropping is ludicrous. The eastern market indicator should be around $28. For more dirt on AWI, I’m more than happy to discuss.

  2. Ron Jeremy, February 29, 2024

    There are a number of reasons that the sheep flock has declined, chasing an increase is absolutely irrelevant and shows very poor economic analyis.

    If the supply drops further, the end product becomes more niche and those farmers who continue to produce Merino wool will get a higher return.

    The Merino wool price has been in the doldrums for the past couple of years, so under what logic would you decide that an increase the supply of wool would be a good idea?

    Maybe a quick lesson in supply and demand economics aka economics 101 might be in order for the Nutrien ‘analyst’.

  3. Kim Cartwright, February 28, 2024

    As a wool grower of 50 years experience in the industry I find the above comments just more of the same rhetoric that offers no solution to wool constantly just bumping along the bottom.
    In my time as a wool grower, I have become an accredited wool classer, professional shearer, own and operate a wool testing business and, along with my wife, have run a commercial Merino stud for the last 20 years.
    I constantly think of McDonalds and Coca Cola, two brands that really don’t have much going for them in terms of natural advantages, yet they are both billion dollar businesses due to great marketing.
    You would think that with all of wool’s natural advantages the wool buyers would be desperate to pay a much better price for such a premium product.
    I believe that the marketing arm of AWI should be scrapped. The people working in that area be offered employment to sell wool on a bonus system. That is, they are on a base rate, but a big bonus is there if they sell above what a pre set level is.
    The current business model where there is no incentive to hit a high sale mark is the worst possible model.
    If the AWI marketers can’t agree to do that, sack them and hire an outside marketing group on a contract bonus system.
    We don’t need more of the same.

  4. Ian Jerry, February 28, 2024

    This is the same presentation Robert has been doing for years.

    It’s like ground hog day.

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