Wool Research and Outreach

The objective of this proposal is to develop and validate the newest technologies for measuring animal fibers and to provide support for the only two remaining animal fiber research laboratories in the US. This proposal directly supports 4 of the 6 objectives listed for the Sheep and Goat Industry Grant Initiative. The US wool and mohair industry produces about 30 million pounds of greasy (estimated 16.4 million clean pounds) wool and 700,000 pounds of mohair annually. Although the proportion of total ranch income for sheep operations that comes from wool has declined in recent years the domestic wool industry is a vital component of the US sheep industry and the primary product for the Angora goat industry. This is an extremely important source of income for many sheep producers. In order for the US wool industry to remain competitive in the international marketplace US producers must continue to adapt to international quality, preparation and testing standards. Continued research and education on US wools is critical to giving producers the necessary tools to adapt to the emerging international trends.

Final Report 2013

After discussions that occurred at Wool Council Meetings at ASI Convention, a representative from a major US knitter wanted to continue the discussion concerning the possibility of utilizing US wool. This is now a possibility because of the new superwash procedure available at Charguers. A fact finding tour was conducted involving a Montana warehouse, a Montana producer, the Montana Wool Laboratory, a representative from Charguers, and a US spinner, together with a representative of the knitter. Following that discussion, a survey of objective measurements of US wools and Australian wools and their suitability for use in socks was conducted. A complete report of results is included in an attached report. Results indicate that good quality US wools may actually be superior to typical Australian wool for use in socks because of their increased crimp, resistance to compression and bulk. Based on these results a series of meetings have been held between the management of a major sock knitter, a major spinning firm, Charguers Wool, a wool warehouse, producers and the Montana Wool Laboratory. The sock knitter has made a trial run using US wool and is planning on expanding use of US wool in their products.

The Labs continue to evaluate the adaption of the NIRS to estimate grease in yield determination and yield. To date testing failed to provide the precision necessary. Based on this testing it appears that current NIRS technology is not suitable for evaluating residual grease in US wools. The laboratory’s are continuing to evaluate its use in evaluating ash.

Both Texas A&M and Montana State continue to implement the use of testing of individual animals for selection purposes. Both Laboratories have upgraded their individual sample testing capabilities form the OFDA 2000 to OFDA 4000. Samples from 12,3692 (10,100 from Montana State and 2,692 Texas A&M) individual animals have been tested in the current calendar year (since January 1, 2012). It is estimated that approximately ½ of the samples were from purebred sheep operations that are utilizing results in their selection programs. Much of the wool data utilized in NSIP was objectively evaluated through this project. NSIP records were evaluated on 2417 Targhee sheep. Summary graphs indicate a steady increase in grease fleece while fiber diameter remains steady (this is the selection objective). Rams with measured fiber diameter commanded higher prices in fall ram sales. Texas A&M AgriLife has assisted Rambouillet producers improve the genetics of this breed since 1949 by conducting an annual central performance test. During the last 5 years an average of 82 rams have participated in the test. Over the last 5 years clean fleece weight has increased 10% (10.2 to 11.2 lbs.), with a concomitant increase in staple length of 6% (5.4 – 5.8 in.) and an increase in average fiber diameter of 4% (22.3 – 22.7 μm). Average daily gain has remained about constant over the last 5 years at 0.8 lbs/day. The Bill Sims Wool and Mohair Research Laboratory conduct the objective analysis on fleeces in support of this performance test.

Samples have been collected from 3 different clips of wool from different geographical regions of the country. Arrangements have been made to send samples from each clip to each of the 5 field units for fiber diameter analysis. To date results have been obtained on 3 of the units for comparison purposes. A complete report of results is included in an attached report. Results indicate that calibrations on each of the three units provided highly accurate results and recalibration was not necessary. Differences between units was largely due to differences in grease correction factor which is generally a problem in field units (Kott, R. W., B. L. Roeder, and L.M.M. Surber. 2010. Sorting lines of wool with the OFDA2000. International J. of Sheep and Wool Science. 58:50-60).

We continue to expand the number of OFDA machines and the number and geographically distributions of wool samples in our data analyses into the 2012 grant.