In writing the introduction to this Focus in 2021, the only significant blot on an otherwise positive horizon was a depressed wool market showing little signs of improving.

There is no real change in the outlook for wool markets 12 months on, but the prospects copybook is becoming significantly harder to navigate, with an escalation in input costs having the potential to erode gains in the marketplace over the last 18 months.

Thankfully, forecasts are solid.

Prices are running in line with 2021 farmgate returns and market forecasts are relatively good. Sheepmeat imports in China are up some 15,000t for the first two months of 2022 and could hit 500,000t if this growth holds.

The increase in demand is accounting for almost 40% of sheepmeat traded globally, with 50% of New Zealand sheepmeat exports and 30% of Australian sheepmeat exports destined for the market. This will continue to leave sheepmeat supplies in Europe tight, while securing access to the US market is a welcome addition to the Irish customer portfolio.

The best approach farmers can take to try to insulate their systems from rising input costs is to strive to operate their business in as efficient manner as possible. This includes keeping a tight handle on costs but also investing in areas where there will be a favourable return on investment.

Health is a massive component in this regard.

Preventative measures for external parasites are important. You can learn more about options to safeguard your flock here.

New technology in the fight against worm burdens and slowing anthelmintic resistance is profiled with the launch of SmartWorm.

The industry will also not have to worry about new veterinary medicines regulations surrounding antiparasitics until 2023, with their introduction delayed for six months.

Farmers are keenly awaiting the results of a wool feasibility study led by the Department of Agriculture.

It is also welcoming to see other research being undertaken. Read an update on a UCD study looking at the potential to extract nutrients from wool here, as well as wool market prospects including demand for wool insulation.