A Passionate Wool Grower Making Strides in the Industry
Rob Hodgkins, a dedicated and passionate wool grower, has embarked on a remarkable journey in the farming world. Inspired by his father’s footsteps, Rob left behind the corporate world to pursue a career in sheep farming. Together with his wife, he started their farming venture in 2014, embracing the challenges and rewards that come with raising sheep and cultivating wool.
What sets sheep farming apart, according to Rob, is the ability to build a thriving business from the ground up. Unlike other agricultural sectors that require expensive machinery and extensive resources, sheep farming offers the opportunity to start small and gradually expand the flock. Rob found this aspect particularly appealing, allowing him to work part-time while gradually building his Romney flock.
Managing his time between various farming activities, Rob divides his attention, dedicating approximately 30% of his time to milking sheep for cheese production, 15% to arable farming and the remaining 55% to nurturing and expanding his Romney flock.
As a wool grower, Rob encounters unique challenges that he continually strives to overcome. One significant obstacle is the disparity between the value of wool and the expenses involved in its production. With the cost of raising and treating the sheep’s fleece, along with shearing and labour expenses, the low market value of wool poses financial challenges. Despite these obstacles, Rob’s determination and passion for wool production fuel his unwavering commitment to overcome these challenges through a variety of experimenting projects.
The process of wool growing involves maintenance, shearing and packing. Preparation for lambing takes place in late March, where the sheep’s fleece near the rear legs is trimmed, known as crutching. Full shearing occurs in July, with the wool collected in large bags and stored in a dry barn before being collected by The Woolkeepers®.
Rob takes pride in the unique qualities of his Romney wool. While not as renowned as Merino, Romney wool offers exceptional quality and is highly sought after. Ensuring the wool’s quality is a priority for Rob, as he pays meticulous attention to the care and health of his sheep, recognising the direct impact it has on the wool’s value.
Sheep play a vital role in Rob’s life, extending beyond a source of income. They are an integral part of his family’s well-being, as healthy and thriving sheep contribute to a sustainable livelihood for his loved ones.
Despite the challenges faced along the way, Rob finds joy and resilience in wool growing. The camaraderie among wool shearing gangs, the banter, laughter shared during the process and the celebration over a well-earned beer are cherished memories that highlight the spirit of the wool growing community.
Rob’s dedication and recognition as a wool grower have not only impacted his immediate community of sheep farmers but have also ignited a vision for the future. Three years ago, his ground breaking work in DNA research and breeding strategies aimed at increasing wool production garnered recognition and inspired other farmers to strive for greater profitability.
To those interested in becoming wool growers, Rob advises thorough research to identify the right sheep breed for their specific farming system and a market demand for the wool. With knowledge and determination, aspiring wool growers can embark on a fulfilling journey in the industry.
For Rob, wool growing holds immense importance as a sustainable and versatile product. He envisions a future where wool is valued even more highly, appreciating its biodegradable nature and contrasting it with the growing environmental concerns associated with microfibers and plastic pollution.
Rob Hodgkins’ journey is a testament to the remarkable dedication and unwavering commitment of wool growers. His profound understanding of the industry, coupled with his relentless pursuit of genetic advancements and quality improvements in his Romney flock, showcases his unique contributions to The Woolkeepers®. Rob’s passion for sustainable farming practices and his vision for a more valued and eco-friendly wool industry make him an inspiring figure. We are immensely grateful for Rob’s outstanding commitment and involvement in The Woolkeepers®, as he continues to shape the future of wool growing with his innovative approach and unwavering dedication.