Wool gathering

easycare_lambs_pen

Somebody was commenting about wool prices and how much wool was worth.

Well at the bottom end of the market a Herdwick fleece can weigh up to 2kg and is worth perhaps 25pence per kilo. So your hard won fleece could be worth a whole 50p

Jacobs, popular with smallholders and others have a better quality fleece, perhaps worth 45p a kilo. A nice fleece can weigh 2.5kg so you’re in the big money with a fleece worth perhaps £1.12.

If you look at a breed like the Romney, the wool is better again, I’ve seen Romney fleeces valued at £1.25 a kilo, and with a 3kg fleece this can bring in the magnificent sum of £3.75. Obviously the prices change year on year, but generally better wool is worth more.

The fly in this particular ointment is that paying somebody to shear your sheep is probably going to cost about £1.20 a head. Things are better than they were. Unless you’re unlucky or have a lot of mountain breeds, your wool cheque has a chance of paying the bill for clipping.  The obvious thing to do is to have some nice sheep with nice wool, keep it really clean and consider supplying the hand spinners

 

The problem with wool is that it’s no longer worth most farmers breeding for wool quality.

If you are on the rough hills then you’ve got Herdwicks, or Swaledales or similar. The whole breed is about survival and producing a good mother who can raise decent lambs. If you’re in the lowlands, meat is king, it’s what pays the bills. The big of money you get for the wool isn’t worth making any changes in the breed that might reduce its potential in important areas.

Obviously in the past it was different. If you read the Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cadfael_Chronicles

 

then you’ll see the old way where wool was so valuable castrated male lambs were kept for several years just for shearing for wool, rather than slaughtering them for the meat.

Things got so bad with wool prices that people started breeding sheep that shed their wool, one breed, the Easy Care, sheds its wool. If you look in the photograph at the top you’ll see how there is still a bit of wool left on their backs but the rest has already fallen away naturally.

Now the price of wool has picked up a bit, for anybody but the rough hill breeds it does at least pay the cost of clipping. But unlike in my grandfather’s early days it’ll never pay the rent.

 

But if you’re interested in wool, you’d do worse than visit Woolfest next year

https://www.woolfest.co.uk/

 

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31 thoughts on “Wool gathering

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 21, 2018 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Our wool blankets don’t show the slightest damage after an awful lot of years. The synthetic ones will go into the trash – not even worth donating.

    • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm Reply

      Yes, we’ve still got blankets with the utility mark on them which dates them to the 1950s at the very latest 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 21, 2018 at 2:54 pm

        Unless they get the moths that eat wool, they last forever, in spite of being organic. Organic molecules, but stubborn.

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 3:18 pm

        Same with woollen clothes really

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 21, 2018 at 4:35 pm

        Don’t we find woolens in ancient tombs? No oxygen, no moths – no holes.

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 8:23 pm

        A very quick google finds wool in Scythian burial mounds from 400BC 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 21, 2018 at 9:27 pm

        I was thinking Ancient Egypt.

      • jwebster2 July 22, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        the egyptians used very little wool compared to other fabrics, but they did find a skeleton wrapped in a wool blanket, dated about 3000BC. Apparently it wasn’t normally buried with the dead or allowed into temples as it was ‘ritually impure’ or certainly was by the time Herodotus visited
        But 3000BC is a fair age for a blanket 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 22, 2018 at 2:40 pm

        There goes your consumer culture.

  2. jim- July 21, 2018 at 2:28 pm Reply

    Woolfest. Shear fun

    • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm Reply

      beware lest you get your wings clipped 😉

      • jim- July 21, 2018 at 2:42 pm

        Lol. I do love these simple and old time style festivals. How local!

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 3:17 pm

        technically it’s national but it’s held in Cockermouth
        But that’s on the edge of a major tourist area 🙂

      • jim- July 21, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        I will update my bucket list. I’ll google it. Since NZ is also on the list I can make it a 2fer. I really enjoy reading your page. Thank you for taking the time.

      • jim- July 21, 2018 at 3:26 pm

        Lol. UK. I’m lost Jim.

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 3:39 pm

        Well it’s not as if the UK is all that big. I don’t think anywhere is much more than seventy miles from the sea 🙂

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 3:36 pm

        no worries 🙂

      • jim- July 21, 2018 at 3:41 pm

        It is funny, a friend of mine recommended your site a couple months ago and I just mentally went with NZ, countryside, sheep, herd dogs = UK. Lol. Thanks Jim

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 3:42 pm

        New Zealand is the other small civilised English Speaking country 🙂

  3. Auntysocial July 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm Reply

    I thought of you last weekend. Rediscovered a clip from “Mitchell & Web” and died at the farm explaining wool and where it comes from.

    *Video does have nasty swear words for anyone that doesn’t care much for them.

  4. robbiesinspiration July 21, 2018 at 5:25 pm Reply

    This is interesting, Jim. It is rather a shame that wool no longer has the same value; replaced by synthetic products.

    • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 8:27 pm Reply

      They were cheaper and there wasn’t the issue with moths
      And then, fashion.
      When somebody buys a top that they’ll perhaps wear once or twice, wool isn’t what you’re looking for

      • robbiesinspiration July 22, 2018 at 3:07 pm

        Unless you are freezing to death at the time [like I am]

      • jwebster2 July 22, 2018 at 4:19 pm

        there is probably not a lot of wool being worn in the UK right now 🙂
        even the sheep have been sheared

  5. Scottie July 21, 2018 at 6:10 pm Reply

    Hello Jim. I looked sheep shearing up on YouTube. Seems like some people make a competition out of it going as fast as they can. The poor sheep did not look to happy being about stood on its head at one point. I do have a few questions if you get a free moment to answer. Do you have to provide the set up or are they portable and the person doing the searing brings their own stuff? Also if you wanted, couldn’t you shear the sheep and take your time, which would save you paying someone who is rushing? Thanks for teaching me about sheep farming. Hugs

    • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 8:31 pm Reply

      I did a blog on it a fair while back, perhaps before your time 🙂
      https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/the-perfect-body/
      But yes, the contractors turn with with everything, all we provide is the sheep
      The problem is that for somebody who isn’t a contractor, you’d really struggle. I know one chap who did decide to do his own, but he had 400 to do and he could only do sixty a day and he got so far behind on his other jobs next year he just paid somebody to do it.
      I can remember my father doing ours with hand shears, but we only had sixty, and he just did a few a day for a week. But even then clipping sheep is physically hard work and puts a lot of strain on the back, it is very much a young man’s job, and ideally a short, wiry, young man at that 🙂

      • Scottie July 21, 2018 at 9:11 pm

        Wow, I will look at your post. Hey is it as hard on the sheep as it looks. I felt a bit angry at the sheep being tugged and thrown around that way. Seemed a bit cruel. Yet when done the sheep trotted off like nothing happened.

        I understand things change. When I was really young, 5 or 6 I remember my grandfather packing milk cans in the pickup ( a 1960’s short bed I loved , I rode with him and it smelled like his pipe) and taking them to a place, he put the cans in on one end of a conveyor belt and at the other end cans came out. That all changed and a tanker truck came and got the milk from the tank. It just was not the same
        Hugs

      • jwebster2 July 21, 2018 at 9:20 pm

        We had almost the same grandfather at almost the same time (mine didn’t smoke) but I too went with his to take milk to the dairy 🙂
        But yes, it isn’t particularly hard on the sheep. Most of them stay pretty still during the process and then just shake themselves and get up.

  6. patriciaruthsusan July 22, 2018 at 1:49 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    A good bit about wool.

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