Broker’s bale to retail passion

Australian Wool Network's Russell Macgugan broker of the year finalist


Sheep
AWN wool broker Russell MacGugan with Rick and Russell Luhrs.

AWN wool broker Russell MacGugan with Rick and Russell Luhrs.

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Australian Wool Network (AWN) wool broker Russell Macgugan is an advocate for the Western District and the woolgrowers who reside there.

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Australian Wool Network (AWN) wool broker Russell Macgugan is an advocate for the Western District and the woolgrowers who reside there.  

To celebrate these two passions, Mr Macgugan has begun facilitating clients’ involvement in AWN’s Direct Network Advantage which links woolgrowers to garments under a new Western District brand.

His clients Eve Kantor and Mark Wootton of Jigsaw Farms, Hensley Park, Vic, are some of the first to be involved in the program which showcases their highly productive, 3378 hectare enterprises to consumers through AWN’s MerinoSnug brand.

A QR code is used to link the impressive story of Jigsaw Farms’ carbon neutral operation to garments, which Mr Macgugan said rewarded and celebrated the operation’s environmental and animal welfare focus.  

“The MerinoSnug program is a very real, vertical supply chain for certain wool types and specifications,” Mr Macgugan said.

“Wools that are grown within the region that fit the specifications are able to be used in the Western District garment label range.”

Several clients are involved in the DNA program which uses 16 to 22 micron wool.

There appears to be a missing link and lack of understanding that merino sheep are not as profitable as cross bred and composite breeds - Russell Macgugan, AWN

“Clients who have produced wools are elated when they know where and what their wools are going in to,” he said.

“There have already been some really proud and positive moments of feedback with the program.”

His enthusiasm for the region and comprehensive understanding of the supply chain was why Mr Macgugan was selected as a 2017 Wool Broker of the Year finalists.

The event is sponsored by Fairfax Media and the Australian Wool Testing Authority. 

The young broker has grown his client base to manage a regional clip of 7000 bales which he assists in the marketing through auction, direct sales and full clip exporting, along with the sales of approximately 32,000 sheep and lambs.

Before joining AWN, Mr Macgugan spent six years as livestock agent, which he said has helped bridge the gap between livestock sales and wool sales. 

“I was eager to understand both sides of the industry in order to assist clients to make informed decisions on their breeding and marketing options,” he said.

“There appears to be a missing link and lack of understanding that merino sheep are not as profitable as cross bred and composite breeds.”   

This knowledge is critical in his strategic marketing decisions, which he said was important when mitigating risk for clients.

“My network within the industry now links the marketing of sheep through AuctionsPlus, direct sales to abattoirs, utilising local saleyards, and on-property sales, with a comprehensive understanding of the values and markets of the wool being harvested from all different breeds of sheep,” he said.

“I am heavily involved with clients’ flock breeding which range from self-replacing merino flocks, crossbred breeding property’s and mixed sheep enterprises.”

Q&A with 2017 Wool Broker of the Year finalist Russell Macgugan, AWN

How long have you been in the industry?

Wool broking for 5 years

What do you see as your major achievement?

After learning the ropes under Maurice Jolly and the AWN team, l now work with an inspiring group of clients who all have their own business they are running. The technical side of being an agent is only the beginning, the most challenging and rewarding part of the job is dealing with the individual clients and their specific needs.

What makes a good wool broker?

Technical knowledge is a necessity but the key is communication and understanding the individual clients’ requirements. Using all relevant information available in order to make an informed decision, to sell or not to sell, at any point in time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. 

In what way do you hope to make your mark on the industry?

I will continue to encourage the use of technology to assist the industry in becoming more efficient, resourceful and productive. I would also like to assist our industry in marketing agriculture and in particular sheep farming in a positive and exciting light. I don’t think we should be afraid to show the world the good, bad and ugly parts and in turn become more proactive in these areas as opposed to reactive.   

What do you see as the major challenge for the wool industry, and what role does a broker play in dealing with this?

Lack of supply and animal welfare are two major challenges in our current, global climate. Wool is one of the world’s most sustainable fibres and is biodegradable. The world is at a point that requires every effort to become sustainable and clean. Therefore, once the global population understand the true need for biodegradable clothing, l believe we may have a very real lack of supply.

Animal welfare is an ongoing challenge that requires attention in order to assist the global community to understand that our farmers are very ethical and only provide the best care for their stock.   ​

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