Rural Press Stock Journal | Terry Sim | 31 August 2011
FOR 40 years, Streatham woolgrower Bill and Trina Weatherly wanted to see what their wool could do.
The NewMerino® base layer T-shirt launched by Patagonia recently was the first time they had seen their wool taken right through to a garment.
“We are absolutely thrilled to see what it can do,” Mr Weatherly said when the Patagonia shirts were displayed at the Merino2020 conference at Wagga Wagga last week.
Mr Weatherly said they were pleased to sell their wool where feedback was given on the product it went into.
The Weatherlys stopped mulesing their SRS® blood fine wool sheep in 2007.
“I was very apprehensive when we made the choice to stop mulesing because we did it in one hit, but it has worked for us,” he said.
“The customer is right and there are a lot of customers who want this (unmulesed wool) so why should we argue with our customer instead of trying to deliver what they want?”
Mr Weatherly said the deal through e-wool and NewMerino® meant they were paid a premium for their wool for the first time in 40 years.
“I think the reward really should be in having that support for your product in the marketplace and having a door opened that wouldn’t be opened otherwise.
“That this wool can go into this market which is not available to wools that are mulesed, that’s the reward,” Mr Weatherly said.
“We’ve got another competitor for our product that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Patagonia strategic environmental materials developer Todd Copeland said their was some doubt about whether there was enough unmulesed wool of the right quality for the base layer specifications. But e-wool® managing director Peter Vandeleur sourced 300 bales of specific quality wool for the NewMerino® garments from 14 mainly SRS woolgrowers in Victoria, New South Wales and Bruny Island, Tasmania.
“Some of them supplied as little as one line of wool, four or five bales and then you have people like the Weatherlys supplying 40-60 bales.
“We are blending, but blending from known farms where we know the attributes of the farms and their wool,” he said.
The wool had to be around 18.9 micron within a very tight fibre range and of a high comfort factor from unmulesed sheep with third party certification to meet the NewMerino® next-to-skin base layer requirements.
Mr Copeland said the NewMerino®wool was made into four different types of fabrics and 20 different styles for marketing into America, Japan and Europe.
“They have absolutely just hit the stores, but we have already done our sell-in to the retailers.
“The retailers were confident and made very good buys, which made us confident going into it up to a year that this was going to be a good program.”
Mr Copeland was confident the NewMerino®products would sell and Mr Vandeleur said the wool was available as long as there was reasonable lead time to match future Patagonia programs.