Ian McKense, a New Zealander who works for Roswell Wool in the U.S. for 6 months out of the year, met me at Hamilton Brothers with a wool press. This machine uses hydraulic power to compress fleeces into a nylon bag, creating a 300-400 pound bale of wool. I knew our wool was always repackaged, but I'd never had the chance to participate before - it was quite interesting!
Ian is also a wool grader, so I was able to learn more about how our wool stacks up. The sire breed that we use (Blueface Leicester) is a long-wool breed. These fibers are mostly used for carpets. The Dorper-cross wool may go into a home insulation product. Our wool (probably about 800 lbs.) will be added to wool from other small producers to make uniform lots of around 3,000 pounds.
|Ian McKense noting the lot number that our wool will join.|
|Our wool - waiting for us to roll it into the barn!|
Wool prices are strong this year. Ian told me that it's due to the relative lack of sheep (both here in the U.S. and in Australia and New Zealand) and to the favorable exchange rate between the U.S. and Australian dollars. New Zealand suffered substantial losses from a spring blizzard last September, and Australia has had weather problems as well. I'm looking forward to receiving our wool check this year - it might even cover the cost of shearing!
For the first time, we're not marketing all of our wool on a commodity basis. Next Monday, I'll take about 30 of our finest fleeces to Yolo Woolen Mills near Woodland. We going to experiment with having yarn and rovings made - look for our wool at the Auburn and Roseville Farmers' Markets later this year!