26 November 1998

Media Release
Farm Media

Beating the bale weight blues

Overweight wool bales are a pain in the neck – more precisely the back – for wool scourers, brokers, dump stores and exporters.

In response to industry complaints, WoolPro is calling for those who buy wool from farmers, or who handle wool on their behalf, to give feedback directly to growers.

"Modern wool presses have scales, but the older ones often don’t. So farmers are not necessarily aware that they’re creating a problem further down the line," says WoolPro managing director Lance Wiggins.

"All brokers and merchants have to do is alert their grower suppliers that they’ve got a problem.

"But because of strong competition for wool supply, many of them are reluctant to tell growers about overweight bales or, indeed, to give feedback on clip preparation faults. Growers are entitled to this information."

Mr Wiggins believes that only a minority of growers over-fill their bales.

Under the industry code of practice, the maximum allowable weight for a wool bale is 200 kg. Yet one wool scour manager – who declined to be named – says he’s had many bales weighing in excess of the limit. Some have been up to 290 kg.

"The savings to growers from over-filling bales are very minor, but the downstream costs can potentially be very high," said Mr Wiggins.

"There are occupational health problems – bad backs and the like. Also, overfilled bales rip very easily when being picked up with cats’ claws – they’re a significant safety risk in wool stores."

With a lot of hogget wool being exported greasy this year, overweight bales are also a major problem for wool dumpers. Mr Wiggins says heavy bales can’t be compressed into a tripack for export.

WoolPro extension specialist Alan Marshall points to factors that growers may not have considered when assessing bale weights.

"Mud contributes significantly to weights – this can catch out growers who work out bale weights on the average weight of a fleece.

Dirty bellies and pieces can be a particular problem.

"Low-bulk high lustre wool is also more dense than high-bulk wool which, because of its springiness, is almost impossible to over-pack."