Broken Hill organic wool fetches $1/kg premium
Quality Wool marketing representative Simon Seppelt and Broken Hill pastoralists Tracy and Peter Botten with a fleece from their 'Corona' organic wool clip.
ORGANIC wool production is increasing rapidly and it's not hard to know why when you hear the latest story from newly accredited producers near Broken Hill, Peter and Tracy Botten.
The Bottens recently sold the first lines of organic wool from their 7000-head flock on 'Corona' station, achieving from 50 cents per kilogram to more than $1/kg above the market for similar traditional wools.
"Our hearts certainly fluttered when the prices came through - at about 10 per cent above the market overall,'' Peter said.
"We couldn't believe the prices. Even the stains got about 550c/kg. Last year we were battling to get 350c/kg for our wool, even though it was a poorer market."
"The organic wool has put about an extra $17,000 in our pockets compared to traditional wool."
"It's been a bloody good help, and the meat has been a major bonus too, achieving about $4.70/kg without killing charges. In most cases it has meant clearing about $90 per sheep.
"We are getting a bit of a premium - some cream on the top - and it's bloody enjoyable."
"This is the chance to have another market that is there at the moment. With a good season, you could pick up an extra $150,000.''
'Corona' achieved certification from Australian Certified Organics (ACO), which recently merged with Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA), in February. It was gained in just two years rather than the normal three, because the Bottens had not used chemicals for the previous three years prior to starting certification.
"Things were tight. There was no feed and no flies and so we held off on the chemicals - and then people started talking organics,'' Peter said.
"We can use Extinosad or Flockmaster (for blowflies and with plunge dipping for lice) for the Australian market, and we have only used Extinosad on the lambs.''
He said apart from a few technical elements such as soil testing to identify any contamination and auditing every 12 months, the move to organic wool production was relatively simple and there was very little paper work.
Numerous other producers in the region have made the organic move too, and Peter said they were now looking to form a group which would also assist marketing by offering larger volumes of stock to buyers.
The Bottens are targeting their wool production for the US market, which offers a 15pc premium benefit, however it does not allow for any chemical use.
The largely self-replacing flock on 'Corona' produces soft rolling skin (SRS) type wools with a fibre diameter of 21-22 microns from the adult sheep and 17-18 microns from the lambs.
The organic wool they sold recently was marketed privately and also at auction, with Quality Wool achieving the highest prices on the auction floor.
"The wool with Quality Wool sold much better. It achieved an average of $1078/bale for fleece wool compared with $1018/bale with the other broker, and the sales were only a day apart. The wool with Quality Wool was also one line of good SRS wool and two lines of wool from the culls,'' Peter said.
Wool operations manager for Quality Wool, Brian Vagg, said the company had been receiving increasing enquiry for organic and chemical-free wool from buyers and processors, and so it was keen to assist and support growers with their production.
"We specially identify the wool in our catalogues and work closely with buyers to ensure they are fully aware of the wool and its specifications prior to sale. We market it to the trade well before the sale,'' Brian said.
He said consumers were becoming more conscious of environmental issues and "clean and green'' product, and Quality Wool recognised the potential of chemical-free and organic wool as a developing market for growers.
Phil Cranney, wool buyer for Dubbo early stage processor Fletcher International Exports, which purchased the Bottens' wool in the Quality Wool catalogue, said the mill was receiving increasing demand for organic wool from the US, UK and Germany.
The Dubbo mill became an accredited organic wool processor through the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) last November and recently completed its third batch of organic wool to overseas markets.
"The first batch went to Mauritius and will be going to a major department store in the UK, the second batch went to Germany and the third batch went to the US. There is a premium for those markets. The three batches totalled about 25 tonnes,'' Phil said.
"The demand has been for product launches, where stores are looking to move into the more environmentally friendly segment. Until the product is in the stores, it will be difficult to predict the demand trend for organic wool.''
He said the wool involved in the three batches was a credit to the growers who produced it.
"They did an excellent job to achieve that quality."
Phil said organic wool production was a "perfect fit" for growers in pastoral areas, where low parasite pressures allowed for an easier move to the production system.
He said organic producers would also achieve added value in future if they had the option to sell to an organic meat exporter.
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