My name is Brett Smith & I am a Director on the WoolProducers Board as part of my role representing QLD woolgrowers through AgForce. I am involved with my family property at St George while also working for Elders as a District Wool Manager based out of Tamworth, where I reside with partner Tori & daughter Polly.
The beginning of 2022 has been one of the best times in recent history for agriculture, with great seasonal conditions seeing an abundance of green grass and commodity prices at fantastic levels -even with the uncertainty of COVID. The wool market has had a strong start to 2022 of upward movement which bodes well for a good year ahead as it continues to catch up with other commodity markets. This year will mark my second year as a Director of WoolProducers, a role in which I am eagerly looking forward to taking on the many opportunities and challenges facing the wool industry. I am lucky to have visibility of a wide range of industry issues through my numerous roles within industry, including AgForce at the state level and WoolProducers at the national level. I would also like to thank WoolProducers for sponsoring my attendance to the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Company Directors Course, through the Commonwealth Leadership in Agriculture grant. This has been a great professional development opportunity for me and I know the skills learnt can be used to continue to contribute to our industry.
As the world begins to emerge from COVID to some degree, the demand for traceability and providence is increasing as consumers now like to know more about the origins of what they are buying. This is an opportunity for wool, as these consumers are willing to pay more for this knowledge of their products and Australia has a great story to tell.
There are numerous accreditation schemes such as Responsible Wool Standards (RWS), Authentico & SustainaWOOL, which, as a non mulesed grower, I have the family property “Tralee” signed up to. The costs and benefits are different for each scheme and so far, I have seen all as being very worthwhile being a part of. Though the very first step in traceability for any woolgrower is the correct completion of the National Wool Declaration (NWD), regardless of your mulesing status. The NWD ensures full competition at auction if your wool meets the specifications for NM/CM orders; while wool declared AA continue to demonstrate the great uptake of pain relief at mulesing across the industry.
The improved seasonal conditions across most wool growing areas has seen increased levels of flystrike and the associated pressure this is putting on the management of sheep for many. Combined with delayed shearing and the reduced length of protection being given by some key flystrike chemicals, other key management practices such crutching and mulesing are required more than ever in some circumstances.
Longer term shifts to management calendars in mixed farming operations and changing the type of sheep being bred are also part of the solution as a smaller pool of skilled available labour is a reality for all of us. Genetics is a key component to help reduce the incidence of body strike and is really only put to the test in these exceptional seasons. Growers should use this as an opportunity to improve your flock while numbers are more abundant and higher selection pressure can be applied.
Overall, I look forward to what 2022 and beyond will bring to the wool industry. We are in a great place to capitalise on this perfect storm of good seasons, improving prices and changing consumer expectations to continue to grow the industry for the future.