With shearing under way, farmers are faced with the choice of storing wool indefinitely or allowing merchants to take wool packs free of charge.
Shearers are reporting ewes being presented for shearing in good condition, with clean fleeces and low incidences of flystrike. Most of the flocks shorn so far have been early lambing.
Wool has been described of medium quality. The wet conditions of May had left little high-quality wool on earlier-shorn ewes. Those flocks shorn in the past two weeks have, however, found wool in better condition.
Few ewes have yet to be seen scratching or casting before shearing where dagging was carried out. However, an upturn in temperatures may increase the incidence of such management issues.
Sheep farmers are optimistic that high lamb prices will be sustained as the main mid-season lamb supply comes on-stream. Some farmers are hoping that these lamb prices, along with the recent return of in-person mart sales, will underpin buyer confidence in the late summer ewe lamb trade.
Many farmers appear content to finish lambs to slightly lighter weights before an expected pull on quotes by factories.
Others are still targeting maximum carcase weights, confident that the extra few weeks between 40kg and 45kg will not see major movement on factory prices.
“I plan to start shearing hoggets in a week’s time, with the ewes another few weeks after.
“We are keeping a good eye on the ewes for maggots with the current weather. We dagged earlier in the year and this seems to have been enough for the ewes so far.
“We sold our wool last year, just to have it out of the sheds. We only ended up getting a few cents a kilo but it was not worth the hardship of trying to keep wool packs dry in the shed over the winter.
“Although current lamb prices might seem high, when you sit down and do the sums on the money spent to keep a ewe, it is a very different picture.”
“We plan to shear later in June. The fleeces are getting heavy but the ewes are still clean, having been dagged recently. Shearing will represent a cost of over €2 per ewe with no financial return.
“We still have last year’s wool and will hold on to it until we can get a half-decent price. We would not cover the diesel costs to draw wool to the merchant this year.
“Farmers will hopefully be less panicky of sending lambs off early at lighter weights. There is a confidence that high prices will stay up.”
“We are hoping to shear our ewes within the next fortnight. Flies are just starting to get active but with ewes clean and the weather constantly changing, we are expecting no issues.
“We only have our replacement hoggets shorn so far. The wool was damp and not the best quality, so we did not even bother bagging it.
“We got last year’s wool sold, even though prices were not great. We will probably have to hold on to it this year with the way prices are looking.
“We are hoping that the main glut of mid-season lambs will be sold as they come fit, without any sudden price drop for later lambs.”
“I have been on the move as a contract shearer every good day since the third week of May. We got most of our own ewes shorn last week.
“The wool has been coming off sticky with the weather we have had in May. We are seeing a slight improvement over the past week as temperatures have increased.
“I held on to this year’s wool, as I did last year. A lot of farmers I shear for are letting merchants take wool away for nothing, just to have sheds emptied. Holding on to it, you hope it will be worth something eventually.
“We will let lambs off as they come fit. I would rather sell 40kg lambs then wait for the last kilo of carcase and miss the good prices.”
“I have half the flock booked in with the shearing contractor for this week and the other half are booked in for a fortnight’s time.
“I will probably keep this year’s wool, the same as last year’s.
“There needs to be a decent market for wool if the sustainability of sheep farming is to be taken seriously. The environmental impact of shipping bulky fabrics around the world is clear.
“The purebred rams had a boost in sales last year and we are expecting farmers to remain confident in spending decent money on rams again this year.”