Fibre metrology and its importance in Wool Measurement and Marketing (part 3)



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Benefits of Objective Measurement (OM) of Wool in Marketing and Production

This technology assists sheep breeders and farmers who place value on wool to incorporate wool important and inherent traits in their selection for breeding woolly sheep with specific production objectives.  It is through the OM that sheep farmers are capable of identifying and selecting the economically important wool attributes in their flocks that will satisfy the product requirements down the processing pipeline to the end consumer.  A moderate to high heredibility of these characteristics allow producers to employ breeding practices that will allow for immediate improvement in wool quality, revenue and quantity of production.

OM provides the basis for accurate communication and greater integration between growing wool and processing sectors of the global wool industry.  This technology increases the efficiency of exchange of ownership and ensures that processors receive wool which is fit for their purpose(s).  This technology cuts off other wool selling functions such as long storage periods of auctioned wool and its re-handling.  As alluded earlier, this method is highly effective than the hand and eye method.

This technology enables buyers to give close estimates of premiums and discounts for particular wool grades.  On account of wool heterogeneity and its use in production of many distinct outputs demand for wool traits will vary according to the production processes required for each end use.

Since the introduction of OM, pre-sale tests have changed the logistics and valuation procedure in international trading of wool.  It was provided on enduring benefit to the wool industry and the economy in producer countries.

1.3 Contributing Raw Wool Attributes to Market Price

Price is considered to be the value placed on the commodity (wool), it is the regulatory and the instrument used in determining demand and supply of products.  The goals for pricing were found to be profit orientated where price is selected for profit maximisation in the long and short run.  Factors affecting market price of commodities including wool fall in their internal and external category.

Internal factors are focused on the objectives, costs and the pricing method to be used by the producers.  The external factors are the impediments to production and marketing of wool.  The wool industries and individual growers consider these factors in pricing their wool.  The break-down of price determinants in wool marketing are based on the internal and external factors, which are summarised and listed by nature of their importance below.

According to Mahar (2009) the important factors contributing to wool price are, Micron 49%, Strength 15%, VM Fault 10%, Staple Length 8%, Staple Measurements 6%, Marketing Factors 5%, Colour 3%, Mid-Breaks 3%, Style 1%.














Source: Stanton (1993) {disproportionate factors sharing 4% (sale season, number of bidders, lot size, location of auction, appraisers’ skills)}

As indicated, among wool traits, fibre fineness (micron) is the most important value determining property.  This attribute determines the end product of wool and is not affected by processing throughout the pipeline.  It is however undisputable that price formation is also influenced by other market factors.  Wool characteristics and market factors are collectively important as they exert influence and impact on market price.

These are mainly wool type (60%), lot size (5%), auction place (5%), season (20%), economic and political situations (10%) {in buyer & seller countries}.

  • Greasy or Raw Wool Marketing

To be successful in producing product for the market, it is necessary to conduct market assessment and study.  The wool growers place this activity on their market intermediaries and brokers.  Farmers should however have an understanding of their wool product and the way in which this understanding informs the choice of the marketing system.  Growers individually and collectively need to make assessment on their choice.  This is because the bottom line is that both tangible and intangible values associated with their wool needs to be objectively identified to be in line with the marketing system subsequently chosen (refer to the traits listing above).

The journey from farm to fashion is important in the wool marketing.  In this explaining this trek the harvesting, mandatory traceability and quality assurance stages are excluded as they have been reiterated in similar discussions.

The Woolmark Company remains the forefront of developing and commercialising new manufacturing technologies for wool.  In this endeavour, the mentioned company is working closely with metrologists, manufactures and growers to develop processing and new product opportunities.  These are both innovative and aim at adding value to create new commercial opportunities.

About 70% of the wool is used in apparel manufacturing and the remaining 30% in carperts, blankets and upholstery.

Wool follows two main manufacturing system or methods, these are the worsted and woollen system.  The worsted method uses long fleece wool for smoother yarns and ultimately smoother fabrics which are used make classic clothing items with smooth appearance.  On the other hand, the woollen system uses shorter fibres to produce less smooth yarns consisting of hairy or raised appearance developed through the milling process.  This system uses the underbelly, legs, skirtings, locks and pieces wool.  This wool is often blended with noil and slipe wool.  Quite often the mentioned grades of wool have high degree of VM percent which is removed by carbonising before the subsequent processing takes place.


As indicated, it is important that the long fleecy wool (main fleece, necks & breaches) make the high proportion of each sheep harvest and the inferior wools’ grades make the least part of the whole fleece harvest as indicated in heading two above.  This contributes to lucrative proceeds and success in farming the woolled sheep.

However, there are factors which leads to the decrease in market wool price some of which were alluded earlier.  For the purpose of clarity, it should be noted that, price increases with yield (Yld), staple length (SL), tip point break (TPB) and hauteur (H, mm) or the fibre length in the top.  On the contrary, the decrease in wool market price is noticeable with increase in VM fault percentage and middle staple breaks (MPB).  The latter is referred to as tender wool (TDR) below 25 newtons per kilotex (Nktex) strength.

Price discount is highly influenced by degree of contamination and the quantity of frelies (sweat contaminated staples) and skirtings in the clip. This is because wool is generally estimated to contain 30% – 60% impurities {natural (35%), acquired (10%) and applied (15%)}. Natural impurities are derived from sheep‘s skin and are considered as useful by-products in processing. To be successful, the latter two contaminants should be minimised through appropriate management practices. Lesotho Wool Growers were taught and made aware of these intrinsic factors through the annual shed competition (which started 10-12 years ago) as they were used as selection criteria for the top three sheds.



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