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
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
Or you could solicit the opinion of one who knows?
The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.
As a reviewer commented, “Yet another quiet, but highly entertaining, amble through Jim Webster’s farming life, accompanied by Sal, his collie extraordinarie.
Sheep, cattle, government eccentricities and wry observations are all included”