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Joint deal on wool industry research

Tue, 7 Dec 2004

New Zealand-Australian joint deal on wool industry research

New Zealand and Australian industry good farmer organisations are collaborating in a project aimed at reducing the costs of wool harvesting and attracting more shearers to the profession.

Meat & Wool New Zealand will contribute $AUS1.5 million to Australian Wool Innovation Limited's (AWI) $AUS14.5 million three-year wool harvesting research and development programme.

The program is developing new harvesting technologies, add-on equipment and better shearing and wool handler training resources.

Meat & Wool New Zealand Chief Executive Mark Jeffries said collaborating with Australia offered benefits on both sides.

"Pooling the investment prevents duplication of research and development projects, and means better value for levy payers' investment. From New Zealand's point of view we couldn't fund this alone," he said.

AWI Chief Executive Officer Dr Len Stephens welcomed the collaboration and said woolgrowers in both countries faced similar issues in wool harvesting - high costs and the challenge of attracting new people into the physically demanding profession.

Mr Jeffries said there was a real need to address a shortage of shearers in New Zealand, heightened by low unemployment.

"Farmers are having difficulty attracting labour for all types of work. An added problem in attracting shearers is that it is very physically demanding and taxing."

"This research is looking at new technology to make the job of shearing easier, in particular the development of upright posture shearing platforms," he said

Under the agreement Meat & Wool New Zealand will have royalty-free access to the technology commercialised from the programme, and access to training materials used in shearer and wool-handler training.

New Zealand has membership on the advisory and technical committees established by AWI. "We have also set up a New Zealand-based mentor group to feed into the process, ensuring that New Zealand ideas and inventions are considered alongside Australian ideas for commercial development," Mr Jeffries said.

Fact Sheet

* Meat & Wool New Zealand will contribute $AUS1.5 million to Australian Wool Innovation Limited's (AWI) $AUS14.5 million three-year wool harvesting research and development programme started in June 2004. The programme aims to reduce the costs of wool harvesting and attract more shearers to the profession.

* Approximately 50% of revenues from wool on the average NZ sheep farm are absorbed directly in the costs of harvesting. Meat & Wool New Zealand has a strategy to reduce those production costs

* The programme is currently co-funding five developers - including two companies from New Zealand - in the area of upright shearing platforms that allow shearing to be performed without the physical effort currently required. Key differences are the elimination of 'catch & drag' i.e. getting sheep from pen to shearing board, and the adoption of an upright shearing posture. The companies have developed prototypes which have shown potential but need further development. The project covers the possibilities of single and multi-stand operations, through to mobile and fixed platforms.

* Partners for development of upright shearing posture platform prototypes, were selected after reviewing more than 80 wool harvesting technologies in 2003.

* The programme is looking at additional new technologies to make the job of shearing easier. These include hand-piece safety devices, improved hand-pieces, electric drives and shearing shed design.

* The current annual cost of harvesting the New Zealand wool clip is in excess of $250m, and has increased significantly since 2000. This is a major driver behind Meat & Wool New Zealand's investment in this programme.


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