Avoiding a full crutch means better skins

Top skin: Paul Fitzsummons, PKF Skin Valuations, said price volatility was caused by seasonal temperatures in Europe, household spend and competing synthetic fibres.

Top skin: Paul Fitzsummons, PKF Skin Valuations, said price volatility was caused by seasonal temperatures in Europe, household spend and competing synthetic fibres.

Minimising shearing cuts and using a keyhole crutch – rather than a full  crutch – and avoiding branding fluid on sale lambs will help maximise skin values.

That’s what prominent southern Australian skin buyer Paul Fitzsummons told producers at the Australian White Suffolk Association conference earlier this month.

He’s the principal of  PKF Skin Valuations, Adelaide, South Australia, and he sources skins from terminal and maternal lambs to export to China, Russia and Turkey.

Mr Fitzsummons said just 10 per cent of the nation’s daily lamb kill resulted in skins suitable for the high quality apparel market.

The majority of skins were manufactured into floor rugs, footwear, baggage lining, car seats, cushions, soft toys, chamois and paint rollers – with 90pc of Australian skins bound for China.

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

He recommended a small keyhole crutch with no shearing over the tail, shearing before lot feeding to avoid “tender” wool, and moving stock to cleaner paddocks or shearing before seed set to avoid grass seed issues.

On any given day at any Australian abattoir, there could be up to 15 skin buyers tendering for product, he said. Skins are valued on the live animal before they hit the kill chain to determine the dressing percentage plus skin size and quality. Purchased skins were then salted, graded, packed and shipped.

“Over the last 15 years we have seen a dramatic change in the skins presented to skin companies for purchase,’’ Mr Fitzsummons 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.

“[Now] the amount of ribby wool, bald necks, bald bellies and strong wool makes it hard to get good quality product for fur coats, medical rugs, futon bedding, sheepskin boots and apparel.’’

Other problems include hide damage from grass seed and shearing scars and heavy ribbing from fat lines in the carcass. “Affected skins are only suitable for car seat covers, footwear linings or chamois,’’ he said.

Mr Fitzsummons said the incidence of dermatitis and fly damage in skins had reduced over recent years.

MLA’s skin report for February 16 put best prices for Merinos with 3+ inches of wool between 1700-2800c/skin. Crossbred and lamb skins (varying wool lengths) were from 100c/skin for shorter wools to 1200c/skin for heavier animals with more wool.

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