Wool price doubles to 120-140c/kg as speculators take a punt on the market
I went to town to sell a load of wool but came home with neither wool nor money. That has been the experience of sheep farmers in recent years when the sale price of the wool was hard pressed to cover the shearing cost. Certainly, the Scotch Blackface fleece has been in negative equity for a number of years.
This is a far cry from the era when the wool cheque paid the farm fertiliser bill.
However, wool looks a bit more promising for the coming season. Over the winter and spring sales, the British Wool Marketing Board had full or almost full clearances with increasing prices. Last month's sale saw an average price of Stg170p/kg with a 96pc clearance.
Again, as in most commodities these days, the world wool price is being driven by speculators. Goldman Sachs and its peers are now playing with wool too.
Irish merchants are talking in terms of 120-140c/kg for the new season's lowland clip, and maybe 50-80c/kg for Scotch wool. This is almost double the opening prices of last year, but it still looks low by the British standards, even if we are not fully comparing like with like.
In any event, sheep will have to be shorn and the warm days in April prompted thoughts of doing the job earlier this year. Certainly, if ewes were going onto their backs or if you encountered fly strike, you would be tempted to take off the wool.
Yet we have to be careful with ewes suckling lambs that we don't shear too early. A cold, wet spell post-shearing can knock back the ewe's milk or even trigger grass tetany.