Grading and marketing of wool
By Dr Rao Zahid Abbas,
Dr Zafar Iqbal & Dr Kashif Saleemi
WOOL is the most misunderstood and abused part of the sheep
in Pakistan. The desire of wool as a fabric has made its
production at an all-time high level. However, Pakistani
sheep producers do not share the benefits of its popularity.
The wool crop often sells at a lower price because of the
poor quality reputation based on improper care of the
fleece, both before and after shearing, and the lack of
grading at wool pools.
Wool can provide a significant source of income. The
difference in fleece yields results from variation within
and between breeds and is affected by climate, nutrition,
wool grease and foreign matter - a valuable product that is
easily spoiled. The primary spoilage agent is foreign matter
such as dirt, chaff, burrs, hay, straw, seeds and grain.
Contamination should be prevented while the fleece is on the
sheep’s back by keeping the facilities clean, and careful
shearing during storage. Table 1
The produce is ordinarily sold in pounds on the basis of
grade, class, and quality. “Grade” refers to fineness of
fibre “class” to length, “quality” to be free of foreign
material and “life” to the character. Grade can refer to
either of the two systems, the American or Blood system
which is being replaced by the Count system - a more
technical method of grading by fibre diameter.
Improving quality and value of wool crop: Avoid vegetable
matter contamination of fleeces. Use feeders designed to
keep hay and chaff off the backs of sheep. Do not carry or
throw hay over sheep to feeders. Avoid pouring grain in
troughs over the heads of impatient sheep. Do not use
sawdust or shavings as the only source of bedding. Use
straw, waste hay, or other material as a covering to keep
wood particles out of the wool. While hay and chaff can be
removed from wool by the processor, wood particles cannot.
Remove burr-producing plants from pastures and hay fields.
Purchased hay should be free of foreign matter. Animals with
high quality wool can be protected with wool coats. Avoid
using de-wormers containing phenothiazine. Table 2
Not all wool can be processed for spinning. Fleeces can be
“rejected” for a variety of reasons. Few examples are as
follow: Table 2
To produce more wool per sheep, the following measures
should be taken:
* Prevent and control internal parasites to allow sheep to
utilize feed for maximum production.
* Keep external parasites under control to prevent itching,
rubbing which reduces quality. Maintain the overall health
of an animal.
* Follow a well-balanced feeding programme. The quantity of
wool produced is influenced directly by the amount and
quality of feed an animal receives. It is possible to triple
the quality by meeting the nutritional requirements of the
* Maintain proper flock health. A sick or feverish sheep
will produce a weak spot in the fibre during illness.
* Some breeds (Lincoln and Lincoln crosses) can be sheared
twice a year. Handle Wool Correctly
* Shear as early in the spring as weather and shearer
availability permit. If weather or housing facilities
permit, consider shearing before lambing. This allows you to
house more animals in a given space, and more easily observe
lambing. It also prevents the loss of wool by tagging or
removing tail area and udder wool before lambing, and
reduces the likelihood of wool becoming stained.
* Keep sheep dry before shearing, both on the surface and in
close to the skin. Damp wool molds and spoils.
* Shear on a clean, dry surface. An eight-by-eight-foot
wooden shearing floor is more comfortable and easier to
* Separate the belly wool and tags from the rest of the
fleece and handle them separately.
* Take sheep off feed several hours before shearing. A full
stomach contributes to animal discomfort during handling and
shearing. In the case of pregnant ewes close to lambing, a
full stomach at shearing can be dangerous to the well-being
of ewes and unborn lambs.
* When shearing, avoid second cuts and shear as close to the
skin as possible to maximize fibre length. This is done
partly by holding the angle of the shearing head in the
right position. Keep the fleece in one piece.
* Every sheep producer should know how to skirt properly,
roll and tie a fleece. A properly prepared fleece (the
saleable product) helps create a favourable impression on
the buyer or grader. Throw the fleece flesh side down, so
the dirty outer edge of the fleece faces up, on either the
shearing floor or a skirting table. Remove off-colour wool,
such as from legs, solid wool such as tags from around the
breach, other contaminated areas and very short or matted
wool such as from the head. Then roll the two sides of the
fleece toward the middle and roll the fleece from one end to
the other. The flesh side will now face out, creating a
clean, attractive package.
* If you tie individual fleeces, use paper twine only! All
other types of tying materials cause processing problems.
The fibres cannot be separated from the wool, are
destructive to processing machinery and do not take dye the
same as wool, causing imperfections in the finished product.
Improperly tied wool may not be saleable at any price.
* All belly wool, tags, off-colour, burry, seedy, chaffy,
cotted, stained or dead wool should be handled and bagged
* Pack fleeces either tied or loose in regulation wool bags.
These bags are available from supply houses, wool buyers or
wool pool managers. Do not pack fleeces in plastic grain or
trash bags as trapped moisture in fleeces can cause the
fleece to mold. If such bags must be used, keep the tops
open to allow moisture out. Do not use plastic mesh grain
bags since these are a major contamination source for
fleeces. Homemade wool bags can be sewn together from burlap
or canvas fabric.
* Store wool, properly packed, in a clean, dry place until
ready for market. Wool is perishable and will pick up
moisture, so it must be properly packed and stored to remain
in good condition until sold.
Small flock owners many not produce enough wool annually to
justify a wool bag. However, this does not mean they cannot
produce a high quality fleece for sale using the above
principles. All wool is eventually graded and sold on grade
basis. Pooled wool offered on a volume basis is more
attractive to buyers and gets a higher price because it
saves the buyer’s time and money. There are a limited number
of wool merchants and mills in Pakistan that buy wool
directly from the grower with payments made after
Courtesy: The DAWN