Project Title: Wool Education and Research – Montana State
 University & Texas A&M University

The goal of this research and education grant is to provide leadership and technical assistance to American sheep producers on wool production, preparation and marketing to help improve the quality, marketing efficiency and competitiveness of US wool both internationally and domestically.

Objective 1. To provide educational outreach programs for producers, stakeholders and end users of American wool. There is a renewed interest in utilizing more domestic wools to produce American-made wool products. Companies such as Duckworth, Voormi, Rambler’s Way, Ibex, Nester, and Crescent Sock Company are interested in source verifying wool back to the American farmer and rancher. The super-wash facility at Chargeurs has made these types of markets possible. Many of these companies are currently utilizing imported wool and are reluctant to switch because of concerns regarding the availability of the type of wool needed in the quantities needed. The type of wool needed is available domestically and growers need to be educated on how to prepare and market their clips to meet this demand. The wool labs in Montana and Texas will be the facilitator of many interactions between wool processors and companies and growers. Funding will allow these universities to expand their outreach efforts in order to meet the national needs of sheep and wool producers, stakeholders and end users of American wool.

Scientists associated with the “Wool Laboratories” at Montana and Texas have made numerous presentations at state, regional and national meetings associated with wool quality, wool preparation, selection for wool traits and the potential out of state use of these laboratories. The number of out of state wool samples received and questions each lab has fielded has increased substantially. The wool labs in Montana and Texas continue to be leaders in wool research and service to the industry. These labs are seeing increased interest in wool testing services particularly in seed stock producers that in actively participating in NSIP or wishing to join NSIP. This is in direct support of the mission of the Industry Roadmap and will certainly help improvement genetic resources in the sheep industry.

Objective 2. To examine the effects of wool harvest preparation methods in limiting the presence of hair in fleece wools, thereby increasing overall quality, value and reliability of US wools in terms of presence of hair contamination in fleece wool taken to finished top. Wool preparation methods will be evaluated including original bag wool (i.e. bellies out), light board skirting, and full table skirting. The impact of this work will allow producers to make informed choices about how they manage wool harvest preparation methods to improve the quality and reduce the risk of hair contamination in their fleece wool. Benchmark data will be generated by collecting samples from individual grower lots under their current harvest preparation method. Grease samples will be submitted for testing of dark and medullated fiber and average fiber diameter. Ultimately, the results of this research could improve the reputation of the US wool clip by reducing the amount of hair fiber contamination in grease wool sold for export, used by US processors in military contracts and maintain the higher quality of wool top exported to spinners in other countries.

Spring of 2015, we evaluated original bag wool (i.e. bellies out), light board skirting, and full table skirting as the wool harvest preparation methods. Two flocks (300 head in each flock) were sheared and wool harvest preparation methods were applied 100 sheep at each location. Wool was sheared at the Bair Ranch, Martinsdale, MT (February, 2015) and NDSU (April, 2015) in Hettinger, ND. Wool was sent to Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, WY where it will be blended, processing into top, and sub-sampling for subsequent testing at Yocom-McColl in Denver, CO. Our intent is to replicate the procedure in the spring of 2016. Top samples from each method, location, and year would then be tested for the presences of hair.


Fleece and off-sort components Top knot with hair fibers present



Shearing setup at NDSU Shearers and research group at NDSU

We look forward to sharing the final results of this project with you in early 2016. It is privilege to work with NSIIC and TAMU on this project as we continue to promote and assist the US sheep industry. If you would like additional information or a more detailed report, please let me know.