Finest kind of wool relies on sound management

Jamie Brown
APRIL 24 2019 - 12:00PM


Angie and David Waters, Tarrangower Merinos at Hillgrove near Armidale have culled their flock by half to survive drought but their efforts in producing super fine wool keep winning high praise from Ermenegildo Zegna.

Fifth and sixth generation wool producers David and Angie Waters, Tarrangower Merinos, have survived seven years of below normal rainfall at Hillgrove east of Armidale.

The Waters have been able to retain the integrity of their super fine Merino flock, selecting genetics for what they feel is the right sort of bright and stylish spinners' type fleece.

However, they have drastically reduced the stocking rate on their property Eastview by 50 per cent, selling their Charolais cross beef breeding and prime lamb enterprises, plus some surplus merinos.

Tarrangower Merinos wins Ermenegildo Zegna super fine wool award for the third time

"Our future is in wool," Mr Waters said. "By retaining as many ewes as possible it will see us rebuild more quickly when this is over."

The reduction has not come at a cost to quality. If anything, consistency is improving all the time - just ask Paolo Zegna, president of the Ermenegildo Zegna group and manufacturers of fine Italian wool fashion.

Last week the Waters family, which includes daughters, Sarah and Bella, were awarded first place in the Zegna competition for the third year in a row.

Tarrangower's winning bale from their commercial mob recorded a micron average of 15.2, with 74.8 yield, a tensile strength of 53 with an 82 millimetre staple length.

For the first time, 70 specialty wool wethers were retained for their ability to produce the stylish wool Zegna desires.

"We have a passion for this," Ms Waters said. "We know what we want and we want to retain those characteristics."

Normally reliable summer rainfall in the New England, which contributes to a sound clip, failed the district badly last year so the win comes as something of a surprise - until you look deeper into the family's management practices.

"Despite drought our flock is fit and healthy," Mr Waters said. "While there is a green pick and still some paddock roughage at the moment, it is expected that the bulk of energy and protein requirements will come from barley and faba beans as we approach winter."

"We are in survival mode," Ms Waters said, whose parents Don and Fay Tully used to trade under the Tarrangower banner some 15 years ago with bloodlines going back 100 years - as long as the Zegna brand.