AWN hits top price for ultrafine bale

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AWN has hit the ground running for the opening of the 2020/2021 selling season with spirited bidding resulting in a bale of 12.8 micron wool smashing the $8000 mark.

The best price seen at auction in more than three years, the ultrafine offering, described by grower Leon Phillips’ ‘Rosari’ Wodonga as like putting your hand into butter, attracted plenty of attention with Australian Merino Exports winning the bidding duel at 8100 cents greasy.

AWN Victorian manager Kelvin Shelley said there was really strong competition for the lot with numerous exporters bidding when it was offered at the Melbourne selling facility.

“Once the bidding started there was keen competition with two European exporters bidding strongly against one another and this lasted for about 5000 cents,’’ he said.

“We had received interest the night before the sale with connections trying to purchase privately for around 5000-6000 cents so that gave us a lot of confidence going into the market. I thought it would generate a strong sale result, but I had no idea it would get to that level.’’

Mr Shelley said it was very pleasing to see AWN able to realise such a great price for a long-time client and see that grower get paid for such a quality offering.

“This type of wool is a bit of a rarity as you don’t often see it come onto the market so it was really good to see the competition and the client receiving a price he should be getting for such a quality product. This luxury fibre will be made into a speciality ultrafine top before making its way around the world to a superior client for the highest of quality markets.’’

The top bale had specifications of staple length 62mm, staple strength 35NKT, yield 77.9pc and vegetable matter 0.1pc. The second lot of 13.9 micron wool realised 3400 cents with specifications of SL 61mm, SS 39NKT, yield 74.8pc and VM 0.2pc.

Grower Leon Phillips said the fleeces making up the bale had come from shedded sheep and had been in storage after he was only offered 2500 cents just after COVID hit.

“It’s the best wool I’ve ever handled – just like putting your hand into butter,’’ he said. “It was a really great result for all the hard work that goes into it.

“My family has been breeding superfine Merinos for more than 50 years. I love the sheep and have been involved myself for nearly 40 years having started at the age of 14.

“I had an ultrafine Merino stud and was breeding all my own sheep, including rams, as I couldn’t get anything else fine enough for my job.’’

At its peak the Rosari stud was running 500 shedded sheep which was both labour-intensive and costly.

“We had to buy in all the feed and I estimated with coats, side sampling etc we were handling the sheep about 2500 times a year. The best price I have achieved is $500/kg for a 100kg bale. Health issues have seen me cut back and I’m now running a commercial flock of 1000 ultrafines on 500 acres having recently sold 500 acres and leased 400 acres,’’ Mr Phillips said.

“I’d still like to think there’s potential to realise $100,000 for a bale in the future.’’

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