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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Sheep Update

Livestock Update, April 2001

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

Proper Wool Handling

Marketing changes made in the Virginia-North Carolina wool pool have resulted in producers being paid for the quality of their wool clip. Since wool sales represent a very small portion of the gross returns in the sheep enterprise, wholesale changes to the genetics of the flock to improve wool grade are likely not justified for most 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 jute or burlap bags.
    2. Plastic film bags are available and preferred. Points to consider with the new 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.

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