Wool makes up less than 5 per cent of the world's clothing market. So wool growers want to find ways to make wool more popular.
GAVIN NICHOLAS: My grandfather came in 1920, he had about 600 acres and we've been lucky enough to build it up now to 11,000. So, I'm the third generation farmer here. My brother and I farm it together.
AIRLIE WARD: Like the family farm, passing down through generations, the story of wool is steeped in tradition. The Nicholas property in the heart of Tasmania's Midlands is no exception. It is part of folklore that Australia and Tasmania rose to economic prosperity on the sheep's back.
GAVIN NICHOLAS: I've always sort of thought you put your effort into what you're keen on and then you'll make a success on it. And I know wool is down a bit at the moment but I'm a great believer that it will turn around, and what goes down must come up.
AIRLIE WARD: Gavin Nicholas is passionate about wool.
GAVIN NICHOLAS: Sheep are fairly hard work. You've got to look after them. If you look after your sheep, they'll look after you. A lot of people don't like shearing but I reckon it's good. It's the harvest. So you work at it all year to grow all your wool, a bit like apple growers and that. They look forward to picking their apples, I reckon; we look forward the cutting our wool off. Last year we were getting towards 7 kilos, average. This year, because we had a bad autumn, and the winter was tight, we'd probably be lucky to cut 5 kilos, average. This is on grown sheep.
AIRLIE WARD: Despite some tough years, Mr Nicholas is pretty philosophical about the vagaries of life on the land.
GAVIN NIChOLAS: I don't think it is over. It's all gone up and gone down. You've got to be positive. People get sort of too negative.
AIRLIE WARD: But not everyone is so sure about the future of the wool industry in Tasmania.
MURRAY BEST: We're looking at the moment, probably - at, in real terms, 20-year lows for fine wools. That's 18 microns and finer. There's a lot of people considering their long-term future in fine-wool growing in Tasmania.
AIRLIE WARD: Richard Gardner's 3000 hectare property in Tasmania's Midlands has moved from being 100 per cent to just 30 per cent wool.
RICHARD GARDNER: Just economics - we're just not getting paid enough for what we're producing. We worked out the other day we're getting $2 a kilo less than what we were getting 16 years ago. And there is no way we can maintain a viable business into the future without having changed what we're doing. The times of the 50s with wool are well and truly gone. They might come back but we won't wait for it at the moment.
The supply chain is just too long and unwieldy, and the wool changes hands too many times, and that's costing the growers at the end of the day.
AIRLIE WARD: After the grower, wool passes through about eight sets of hands before it gets to the retailer.
SARAH ACKLAND: Tasmanian wool is not a commodity. It's - it's - it's got stories behind it. There are stories behind the wool, there are stories behind the way we manage our sheep. It is a beautiful product, and, really, it's better than a commodity but we need to understand what drives the sale of something that's a product rather than a commodity.
AIRLIE WARD: Sarah Ackland is a young wool grower with hope for the future. She's won a prestigious agricultural scholarship and is about to head overseas on a fact-finding mission, in bid to work out how to improve returns.
Ms Ackland believes there are lessons from New Zealand, which has improved its supply chains.
Ms Ackland says one of the biggest changes to be made is in the mind of the consumer.
SARAH ACKLAND: I do believe there is a marketing issue. I think - I've just shown people, when I've travelled, about some of the woollen garments that I've had, and they still think it's grandmother's woollen jumper. And I'll show you some of these products, it's certainly not. So, certainly, there's marketing that needs to be done. I don't believe that the man-made products do match wool. Wool has traits that these products don't match, and, so, really, we have to tell people - - -
AIRLIE WARD: Chuck it in the machine?
SARAH ACKLAND: Absolutely. Doesn't - have to wash it so often, doesn't make you smell. It's fantastic.
Came is the past tense of the irregular verb come. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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build it up
improve and expand
For more meanings of the phrasal verb build up, follow the link below to our language library.
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being transferred to a younger generation
Example: This story had been passed down for hundreds of years.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb pass down, follow the link below to our language library.
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To be steeped in something is to have a lot of a particular quality.
Example: Rome is a city steeped in history.
in the heart of
in the middle of
Example: I live in the heart of the suburbs.
Rose is the past tense of the irregular verb rise. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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on the sheep's back
People say Australia was built on the sheep's back. This means that the success and wealth of Australia came from the sales of wool overseas. In its early colonial history, Australia's economy grew because of the success of sheep farming.
Here thought is the past tense of the irregular verb think. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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very interested in
Example: My brother is keen on football.
Here turn around means change direction - he believes that prices will start to go up soon.
Example: The wind will turn around from the north to the south.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb turn around, follow the link below to our language library.
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what goes down must come up
He’s reversed a common saying. Usually, we say ‘what goes up, must come down’, meaning that something thrown into the air must fall.
To be philosophical means to accept things calmly and without anger.
Vagaries are uncertainties, or unexpected or uncontrollable events.
life on the land
Life on the land is the life of a farmer.
Here it's is short for it has. Follow the link below for more about it's and its. .
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Gone is the past participle of the irregular verb go. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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We're is short for we are. Follow the link below to find out how to spell the word that sounds the same but means 'in which place'.
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Here paid is the past participle of the irregular verb pay. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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Example: I’m trying to work out how much I can afford to pay.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb work out, follow the link below to our language library.
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For more meanings of the phrasal verb come back, follow the link below to our language library.
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We call people who raise sheep wool growers because wool is the end product of their farms.
The wool cut from the sheep is called the fleece.
Shown is the past participle of the irregular verb show. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
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What's the adjective for things made from wool?
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