I am employed as a District Wool Manager for Elders Mildura. I completed a Bachelor of Rural Science with Honours in 2018, in which I studied the implementation of shorter (6 monthly) shearing intervals. I have a love for agriculture, due to both my upbringing in the Western division and dedication and passion for the wool industry.
I have been involved in the 2022 ARLP Drought Resilience Leaders Program, 2022 National Farmers Federation (NFF) National Agricultural Leadership program, the 2020 AWI Breeding Leadership group, and appeared as a podcast guest for Farms Advice, where I spoke about my take on the wool industry. I have also participated in the Young Farming Champions network for wool and various industry presentations/scholarships such as presenting at MerinoLink, the Landmark Merino Scholarship, NSW Farmers Scholarship and the Australian Wool Education Trust Scholarship.
The word resilience comes to mind to describe the wool industry, not only because of the droughts, floods and hardships of farming, but also for the role trade, politics and wars have played on this industry.
Resilience is evident through how our industry adapts and changes to the environment we operate in. Flock numbers were wiped out by almost half and reduced to 54 million during the Federation Drought from 1895 – 1902, with sheep levels not returning to the pre drought level 1926. The First World War helped woolgrowers through this tough period due to the British Government buying wool at fixed rates. This happened again during the Second World War as demand again increased for uniforms and blankets.
The 1950’s are considered the Golden Era of wool with the Australian economy “riding on the sheep’s back” with wool productions gross value making up 56% of the total value of all agricultural industry production. With the introduction of synthetic fibres by the 1970s wool production fell to represent just 15% of Australia’s total agricultural production. This was also the era of the minimum reserve price scheme, which by the 1980s was shaping up to be a disaster.
In February 1991 the Australian Wool Corporation stockpile contained 4.7 million bales of wool, the reserve price scheme ended, the wool price plummeted, and the industry was on the verge of collapse. Many producers left the industry, and thousands of livestock were destroyed; however, the industry pulled through. Producers stayed, sheep were kept, and the industry adapted. We have recently witnessed the effect a world pandemic can have on our industry, with extremes in supply and demand comings into effect, compounded by low oil prices and delays in shipping have all aligning to apply downward pressure on wool prices. However, it must be said that, but the quality of Australian wool available to consumers remains is unrivalled.
Today Australia accounts for less than 10% of the world’s sheep population, produces 50% of the world’s merino wool, is the world’s largest producer and exporter of wool, with an export industry worth $2.7 billion alone in 20-21 to the Australian economy.
This is an industry that has battled droughts, floods and fires continually. It’s faced wars, price crashes, pandemics, competing fibres and still continually adapts and changes. The way the industry has transformed from running thousands and some cases millions of merino sheep per property to just produce wool, to an industry that is focused on increasing productivity via genetics to be able to run more productive animals on less land, that are also able to tap into the meat industry as a pure merino, as well as wool. We have faced the introduction of synthetic fibres and adapted our processing to make wool the fabric of choice.
Wool can now be washed in washing machines and thrown in dryers, no longer feeling itchy on our skin and is recommended to be wrapped around our babies. It’s known for being the “sustainable” fibre of choice. It’s water resistant, fire resistant and safe for allergies. It’s beneficial for our planet and is biodegradable back into our soils adding nutrients into the nitrogen cycle instead of pollutants. It’s odour resistant, renewable and adapts to insulate your body either to cool or heat. It’s the fibre that simply keeps on giving. We as Australian wool producers have a reputation within the world at being the best at what we do. We do it because we are passionate, and because we love what we do.
This is why I have chosen to make the wool industry the industry I wanted to pursue a career in. I have the personal connection to the industry through my family’s extremely strong history within this beautiful industry, I am proud to be a part of the 6th generation in the wool industry within my family. I also have a passion for the fibre that is wool, and the unique ability to adapt and change which is the wool industry. There is a huge potential for growth, especially on the sustainability side of this industry, and I want to be part of it. I believe it is an industry full of resilience and change makers, and I get to work with passionate dedicated people every single day through my role as a broker. I see this opportunity with WoolProducers Australia as a way to learn more about how the industry interacts with government and policy, to improve my knowledge and understanding of how this industry works.
Many say that wool is a “thing of the past” in Australia’s agricultural industries, but I believe the next chapter of this industry is only just beginning. I hope we start to inspire the next generation of wool growers to step up to the plate and tackle the issues as they arise, and that we adapt whole heartedly to change so we are able to continually build our industry for many generations to come. Wool will always be my fibre of choice, and I believe the more we talk about wool, the more people will come to fall in love with this fibre too.