Flock still on the decrease

25 April 2004

The latest ABARE projections for this year's national slaughter of 27 million lambs and sheep, which were released at the recent Outlook 2004 Conference, also noted that the Australian flock is still contracting, and is now well down on the mid-1990s peak of 34 million. This has affected not only the total wool clip but the sheepskin trade, so badly that Laverton, Victoria, company JA Steele and Co has closed. The company were at the centre of the local sheep and lambskin trade, when buying and drying 10,000 skins a week was possible. Throughput in recent weeks has been less than 5,000. So after 45 years as a sheepskin buyer Peter Fallu, together with partners Peter Harsley and Mick Barrow, is giving up. In an interview Peter Fallu said: 'The sheep are just not there. In the 1970s about 100,000 sheep and lambs would have been processed at Melbourne plants. Today there are hardly any as processing has moved to country centres. In those days, there were nearly 20 companies tendering daily for skins, to be air-dried, baled and sold to exporters. 'Around 80% of the skins were dispatched to the world's specialist fellmongering district, Mazamet in France, which at that time had 130 family companies processing leather and fellmongered wool. Today the trade had changed dramatically, with less than ten tendering firms.' Peter said that skins are no longer air-dried but salted, and China has replaced Mazamet as the prime importer, adding: 'With air-drying it could take up to ten weeks before you could invoice an exporter, whereas salting has reduced that to two weeks. 'Most of the skin buying has remained the same, with companies calling in daily at meatworks to value and tender prices for skins. We were lately making a profit margin of a dollar or two per lambskin. It's not on.'

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