Several factors contribute to maintaining and improving the wool clip, such as breed suitability to farm context, feeder designs that reduce neck, back and shoulder rubbing; nutrition and its impacts on fibre strength and breakage; contamination with vegetative matter from field grazing, hay or bedding; age (increased kemp or hair which won’t take dye and devalues the clip); housing and choice of bedding (fine, shaving chaff is hard to remove from the fleece, but no bedding results in manure encased fibre); good parasite control, and timing shearing before lambing to avoid wool breaks. All are important factors in developing a fine quality, saleable, fleece.
Shearing and fleece handling are also crucial steps in insuring the best returns on the wool clip. A badly cotted (felted) fleece in a bale might significantly reduce the value of the clip if it’s caught. Best practices when skirting the fleece after shearing:
- Removing and disposing of the belly and head wool it is too short and dirty.
- The front shoulder, shoulder to back and flank should be the best wool unless it has been heavily abraded and cotted through poor feeder design and rubbing.
- Vigorous shaking out the fleece to remove second cuts and debris.
- Aggressive skirting and removal of kemp, cotting, and areas of short wool fibres (to promote consistency), as well as stained or matted edges and any crayon/marker residue
- Removal of grossly contaminated wool (daggy fleece) while recognizing what can be washed out at the mill (such as sweat tags at the tips and grease). There should be no serious contaminants such as burrs and thistles.
- Avoiding mixing coloured wool with white wool
- Skirting out wool tips on the back and shoulder that are embrittled from sun/weather exposure and prone to breakage (tippiness)