World wool supply is at its lowest in centuries, textile use in the United States is struggling and who knows where anyone can sell their clip and actually make money on it? So why am I so excited about wool and its prospects in the United States? I see a burgeoning local sustainable movement where sheep and wool fit right in despite some noise from extremist pro-animal movements.
Why? Because ultimately plastic is a huge enemy to environment and the sheep story is ultimately one of human’s best deals with animals and if done right it provides the most environmentally sustainable sources of meat and fiber anywhere.
This movement is growing and we see a steady growing demand for wool. At one level we get calls for breed specific product. There is a crazy online obsession with what breeds that a fiber artist has spun or felted or transformed into some great product. Given most wool once it is spun and put into a product is indiscernable as any particular breed, this seems to be a trend that won’t last. What is discernable though is the feel. The softer the feel the easier the sale is a trend that will continue.
Growing finer wool improves the feel of your wool. Fine wool sheep can actually be sold for meat too and despite many myths they can exist just about anywhere. While they tend to grow finer wool in more arid areas where feed is scarcer and sheep don’t put as much energy into wool production, wool is such an inheritable attribute it can transfer to sheep grown in areas where feed and grazing is more plentiful.
Fine wool is also most valuable as a commodity, so if you just want to grow and not marketer/retail your clip you have a great shot at making money every year on your wool at today’s price levels. We see wool finer than 24.5 micron priced way higher than medium and coarse wools and the finer you go the higher the price. This trend we expect to last.
So whenever we’re asked what wool to grow we always say the finer the better. That said, we believe the inherent draw of a locally grown product can overcome the international market. We see this in the small flocks as well as old reopened or newly made mini-mills that are part of this emergence. Right now they’re all busy and looking for wool, and for sure the biggest call we get is for Merino.