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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, May 2008
**Corrected version May 7, 2008

Scott P. Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

Wool Pool Dates Set for 2008

Producers in Virginia and North Carolina interested in marketing their wool through local wool pools will have the opportunity to do so.  Each pool will sell wool on either a cash or grade and yield basis to Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association based in Canal Winchester, Ohio.  Producers are encouraged to package, handle and store their wool in an appropriate manner in order to maximize the value of their wool clip.  Wool should be packaged by type/grade (ewe vs. lamb wool, long staple vs. short wools, fine vs. medium wools) in plastic bags, and be clean, dry, and have foreign material (straw, mud, manure) removed prior to packaging.  Following is a list of local pool delivery dates, and locations where wool will be picked up:

June 17            Wytheville, VA
June 18            Christiansburg, VA
July 2               Albemarle, NC
July 2               Asheville, NC
July 2               Williamston, NC
July 3               Sparta, NC
July 8               Orange, VA
July 8               Farmville, VA
July 15             Russell Co., VA
July 16             Tazewell, VA
July 18             Augusta Co., VA
July 22             Clarke Co., VA

To confirm the above dates, and for more information regarding specific times and locations, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.

Proper Wool Handling

Proper harvesting, packaging, and storage of the wool is important to realize the full value of the wool clip. Since wool sales represent a very small portion of the gross returns for most sheep enterprise, wholesale changes to the genetics of the flock to improve fiber diameter and fleece weight are likely not justified for most Mid-Atlantic producers. However, there are several important steps that should be considered to maximize the value of the wool clip:

  1. Minimize Contamination:
    1. Keep shearing area clean and free of straw/hay and other potential sources of contamination.
    2. Avoid use of plastic baler twine in sheep operation that may contaminate fleeces (this contamination occurs throughout the year, not just at shearing time).

  2. Use Proper Packaging Material:
    1. Do not use plastic feed sacks to store or package wool.
    2. Plastic film bags are available and preferred. Points to consider with plastic film bags:
      1. Sheep need to be dry when sheared. Plastic bags will not breathe as well as jute bags (more possibility for wool to mold and rot).
      2. Plastic film bags will tear easier when handled.
      3. Tie plastic film bags shut in similar manner to jute bags.
    3. Store wool in dry place, avoid cement or dirt floors to prevent moisture uptake.

  3. Sort Wool at Shearing Time
    1. Shear white-face sheep first, blackface sheep last to avoid contamination of white-faced wool with black fibers.
    2. Package lamb and ewe wool separate.
    3. Remove tags at shearing and discard.
    4. Sort belly wool and bag separately. Also sort wool caps and leg wool out if justified.
    5. Off-type fleeces (black, high vegetable matter, etc.) as well as belly wool should be packaged first in a small plastic garbage bag or paper sack. The small bag may then be added to the large polyethylene film bag. The small bag serves to keep these wools separate and prevents them from contaminating other fleeces already packaged, and results in a more uniform lot of wool.
    6. Do not tie wool with paper twine.

Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test 2008

A total of 48 rams were delivered April 28 to the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station located at the Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Steeles Tavern, VA.  Consignment numbers and breeds of rams consigned include:  26 Suffolk, 10 Dorset, 5 Katahdin , 4 Hampshire, and 2 Dorper, .  The rams began the 63-day test period on May 13, which will conclude July 15.  At the completion of the test, rams will be evaluated for reproductive and structural soundness.  Eligible rams will sell at the station on Saturday, August 23.  Complete performance information will be available on all rams, including measures of growth performance, ultrasonic estimates of carcass merit, and scrapie resistance genotypes.  For information please contact Dr. Scott Greiner, phone 540-231-9163 or email

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