King Island wool
KING Island is world-renowned for its dairy products and Kangaroo Island is hoping to follow its example and make a name for itself in wool.
Eighteen passionate KI woolgrowers and their sheep consultant and local veterinarian Greg Johnsson are drawing on the island's strong recognition throughout Asia and the rest of the world to market their Kangaroo Island Wool brand.
They are promoting themselves as producers of "environmentally friendly, high-quality, natural wool grown and harvested annually from healthy contented sheep" and establishing relationships with woollen mills and overseas retailers.
Kangaroo Island Wool members collectively produce about 440,000 greasy kilograms a year, representing about 20pc of the island's production.
The majority of this is fine Merino wool in the 18.5 micron to 19.5M range but members grow both Merinos and crossbreds.
The group was founded just six months ago but has enjoyed a tremendous response. It hosted two delegations from Japan earlier this year which resulted in two orders.
They sold 87 bales of crossbred fleece to Motohiro in Japan to produce hand-knitting yarn and another line of 31 bales of medium-wool Merino to the same company.
Kangaroo Island Wool chairman Nick Clark said the company was born from strong enquiry for KI-grown wool further down the processing chain.
The group has a good relationship with early-stage processor and buyer G Schneider, Sydney and sees most of their business being done through direct contact with the mills.
"It hasn't been hard. Up until now all the enquiry has come to us. There has been much stronger enquiry than we thought we would get."
Nick said the group was very much wool-focussed, with most members having at least a decade of experience in the industry.
"The aim of the company is, firstly, to improve the productivity of our flocks and the quality of wool we are growing and try and forge alliances down the supply chain with a view to getting recognition for the wool we are producing."
Nick said freight was a major cost for any farming business on KI but the "high value, relatively low volume" wool was much more economical than many other commodities sent to the mainland.
Kangaroo Island Wool members Tom and Liz Willson, New Country KI, Penneshaw say even if it is only a few cents a kilogram premium, it is helping boost wool sales.
Earlier this year, a group of Japanese retailers visited their property in the middle of the Dudley Peninsula, inspecting their 2500 Glenlea Park-blood Merino ewes.
The delegation from Japan was looking to buy wool in unique areas in Australia. Kangaroo Island is known and marketed internationally for is pristine environment and the buyers would have the added advantage of this as a marketing tool to sell their products.
"If we can get into these niche markets using the KI Wool brand it will really push wool in the marketplace," Tom said.
The fourth-generation woolgrower said it was great to see the Japanese appreciate how Australian wool was produced in a "clean, green manner" and have the chance to explain their management and animal husbandry practices, including mulesing, to consumers.