Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Ulster says yes to higher wool prices

Edward Cahill pictured during a day's shearing outside Dunlavin last week. He was working alongside his uncle John Corrigan and local contractor Joey Walsh. At only 14 years of age, Edward is hopefully among the next generation who will take up the busines
Edward Cahill pictured during a day's shearing outside Dunlavin last week. He was working alongside his uncle John Corrigan and local contractor Joey Walsh. At only 14 years of age, Edward is hopefully among the next generation who will take up the busines

Chris McCullough

Wool prices may be low on this side of the border, but a Northern Ireland wool co-op is claiming it is offering above the going rate as it works flat out to meet demand from its Chinese customers.

Sheep farmers in  the Republic are being urged by Ulster Wool in Muckamore, Co Antrim to bring more wool to them as demand  increases.

Last year Ulster Wool handled 1.2 million kilogrammes of wool from around 4,000 producers – but it needs more.

“Demand is strong for our wool, particularly from China, where it is made into carpets,” said Ulster Wool joint manager Jayne Bones-Harkness.

“The Chinese seem to prefer Irish wool because it lasts longer and forms a better carpet.

“We are now in the main season for shearing so this is our big chance to collect more wool.

“Ulster Wool has been getting the message out that we need more wool and are trying to get more farmers through the door.

“Our new collection centre in County Tyrone is starting to show its worth as farmers simply take their wool there and we bring it to Muckamore,” said Ms Bones-Harkness.

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“On average we take in five to six tonnes of wool per week but in one of our busiest weeks in June we collected 91 tonnes.

“Ulster Wool is a not-for-profit organisation and all the profits are returned to farmers once running costs have been processed.

“It has to be stressed to farmers that we do not buy wool; we actually sell it at auction on their behalf.

“We pay on average 30pc more for our wool than our competitors do.”

There are seven full-time staff and three part-time staff working at Ulster Wool, which stays open for extended periods to ensure the wool is collected.

Grades

After the wool is weighed it is graded by two expert graders into around 100 different grades.

It is then baled into 400kg bales and sent to Bradford in England for sale at auction.

Farmers tend to stock up their wool in the hope of getting a better price but Ms Bones-Harkness urged them to get the wool in while it is freshly cut.

“The worst wool we get is wet wool,”said Ms Bones-Harkness.

“Anything can happen to it when farmers store it in sheds. It’s much better to bring the wool in fresh when it is high in lanolin and feels oily.”

When it comes to prices, Ulster Wool is paying farmers an average of 60c/kg.

“Organic wool receives a premium of 50p per kilo on the production of the farm’s organic status certificate from the Soil Association,” added Ms Bones-Harkness

The team can grade and bale around five to six tonnes per day but no wool goes to waste as even the dags are bagged up and sent for sale.

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