Call for better care of skins

By Country News

Sheep producers have been urged by a prominent southern Australia skin buyer to use only a keyhole crutch, minimise shearing cuts and avoid the use of branding fluid on sale lambs.

PKF Skin Valuations principal Paul Fitzsummons sources skins from terminal and maternal lambs for price-sensitive export markets China, Russia and Turkey.

Speaking at the Australian White Suffolk Association conference last month, Mr Fitzsummons said just 10 per cent of the nation’s daily lamb kill resulted in skins suitable for the dressing or high quality apparel market.

The majority of skins are made into floor rugs, footwear, baggage lining, car seats, cushions, soft toys, chamois and paint rollers.

Mr Fitzsummons said downgraded skin values were often caused by shearing cuts, grass seed damage, tender wool, ribbing, incorrect crutching, and the incorrect use of branding fluid or paint.

He recommended a small keyhole crutch with no shearing over the tail, shearing before lambs were lot fed to avoid ‘‘tender’’ wool, and moving stock to cleaner paddocks or shearing before seed set to avoid grass seed contamination.

‘‘Over the last 15 years we have seen a dramatic change in the skins presented to skin companies for purchase,’’ he said.

‘‘Fifteen years ago, no matter what abattoir you went to in Australia to tender on skins, there would be around 35 per cent good dense wool skins of different breed types.

‘‘Today, with reduced numbers of the flock, it’s hard to get good dense wool product for the dressing market.

‘‘The amount of ribby wool, bald necks, bald bellies and strong wool makes it hard to get good quality product to sell to top end customers for fur coats, medical rugs, futon bedding, sheepskin boots and apparel.’’

Mr Fitzsummons said another problem was hide damage from grass seeds and shearing scars.

‘‘No-one wants to wear a jacket or sheepskin boots with the light coloured marks caused from grass seed or shearing scarring.

‘‘The skin structure of a scar is a lot tighter and does not take tanning chemicals as well as the surrounding skin.’’