Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wool Pool Today!

Wild Rose Farm arrived at the Washington County Wool Growers Cooperative Wool Pool today around 1PM.  We were finished and back on the way home at about 3:30.   So what goes on at a wool pool?  First you get in line like everyone above .... the line creeps forward as trucks, trailers, hatchbacks, etc are unloaded.   Notice that the loads are all tarped or covered.  Wet wool is a big NO NO!   There were threats of thunderstorms yesterday and today, so no one was taking any chances.  Fleeces must be untied and should be mostly free of "vegetable matter contamination".   That means you shouldn't throw hay over your sheep's backs when you feed them!  That's another reason that some of us who produce for handspinners will jacket our sheep to keep the fleece as clean as possible. 
Each farm unloads their wool onto a table where these folks trained in wool grading examine and classify each fleece as it's dumped out of the boxes and bags.  From left, Bob Calvert, Dustin Heeter, & Don Hunter are doing the grading.  The fleeces are then piled into racks by grade and when the farm is done, all of their racks are weighed individually and then totaled.  The association writes a check for the value of the wool to be paid to the sellers when the mill pays the association.  Since a wool mill has bid on the entire wool pool "clip", each grade of wool has a pre-determined price that is known to the sellers before they bring in
their wool.

The wool is loaded into 2 wool presses owned by the association to make tightly packed bales of wool.  Walt Bumgarner, show here feeding wool into the press says that most bales weigh around 450 pounds.  A bale of fine wool which is much greasier (more lanolin) will weigh close to 600 pounds!  All of these gentlemen, BTW, are current or former Penn State Extension Educators (or Extension Agents as they used to be called).  The bales are labeled and stacked for pick-up.
This gives you an idea of what it means to "tote that bale" !!!!
A few more facts about the wool pool.  This pool was open on Monday & restricted to accept wool from farmers with more than 125 fleeces!   Today was the day for those that had less than 125 fleeces .....  Each producer pays membership dues of $2 and an 8.5 cents/lb handling fee.  Seems pretty reasonable to provide this service with all of the workers,  2 wool presses, scales, and associated equipment.   I know when we hit the road, but I wonder when this group closed the doors and left for the evening ..... done for another year!  Did I mention that it's a great place to meet up with and socialize with friends and fellow sheep producers while you wait? :)

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