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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

More on “fine, medium and broad” handles for merino micron categories.

By Andrew Woods  |  Source: AWEX, Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders,, Delta Consultants, Independent Commodity Services

Key points

  • Subjective merino micron labels such as “fine, medium and broad” vary.
  • The changing merino micron distribution during the past 20 years looks to have caused the variation in labels used in the industry.
  • The merino micron distribution looks to have stabilised in the past decade which allows the micron labels to be standardised.
  • An international approach to this issue would help the merino industry draw on a collective strength.

2018-05-22 Wool Fig 1

2018-05-22 Wool Fig 2

Last week Mecardo published an article on the subjective shorthand labels for micron categories (“fine, medium and broad”) in relation to potential confusion when hedging. A reader from Uruguay has raised a related issue about the range of different subjective labels applied to merino micron categories and the potential for confusion. This article takes a look at this issue.

According to our South American reader the different labels given to micron categories was discussed at the recent World Merino Conference held in Uruguay. To illustrate varying micron labels Table 1 shows labels roughly lined up with micron categories from the Australian Stud Breeders website, South America and the Sheep Online website. In addition the micron distribution for the Australian merino clip during the past five years is shown on the left hand side.

During the past two decades the average fibre diameter of the Australian merino clip has moved from 21 to 19 micron. The New Zealand merino clip is finer and merino clips from regions such as South Africa and Argentina now average around 20 micron (like Western Australia). For Australia as a whole, the 19 micron category is the mode category, with the 21 micron category coming in as the fourth largest category by volume.

In Table 1 the three sources of micron labels all agree on calling 21 micron “Medium”, 19 micron “Fine” and 18 micron “Superfine”. That is where agreement ends and the range of labels begins.

Figure 1 shows the micron distribution for the Australian clip during the past five years with the Australian Stud Breeders micron labels shown. To see where the labels originated from, Figure 2 shows the same analysis as Figure 1 except the merino micron distribution is taken from the late 1990s. In this case, medium lines up with the average merino micron and the finer/broader labels make more sense.

The move finer by merino clips around the world during the past two decades has resulted in varied responses in terms of micron labels, hence the mismatch of labels shown in Table 1. Our Uruguayan reader would like these varying micron labels to be brought in line, which seems a good idea for a small international industry. The fibre diameter of the merino clip in Australia appears to have steadied in the past decade which potentially makes the job of tidying up the subjective micron labels easier.

What does this mean?

Subjective micron labels are by their nature less well defined than the underlying objectively measured fibre diameter. There is quite a range of labels used, some matching across micron categories and some not. However it would be logical for the merino industry on an international base to use a common set of micron labels, which are short hand for groups for micron categories.

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