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Sheep vary considerably in the
type of wool they produce.

Fine wool from Merino Carpet wool from a Karakul

One type of wool is not better than the other. They just have different uses.
Breeds of sheep are grouped according
to the type of wool they grow.

• Fine
Rambouillet, Merino
• Crossbred (fine x medium)
Targhee, Corriedale, Columbia
• Medium (fine x long)
Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, Cheviot,
Montadale, Southdown, Shropshire,
Tunis, Polypay
• Long (coarse)
Romney, Border Leicester, Lincoln,
• Carpet (double-coated)
Scottish Blackface, Karakul, Icelandic
• Hair (shedding) - not sheared
Katahdin, Dorper, Barbado

Rambouillet (fine wool) sheep

The wool from one sheep.
Sheared off in one piece.

Grease or raw wool is wool as

it is shorn from the sheep.
The amount of wool shorn from
the sheep in one flock.
Fineness – fiber diameter

Thickness of the wool fiber

Measured in microns (one millionth of a meter - µ)
Fiber diameter
Short, dirty

 Coarser

 Coarser
(hairy) 

Short, dirty, kinky

• The numerical count system divides all wools in 14 grades, each
designated by a number that classifies wool by fiber diameter.
• Numbers range from 80s for the finest wool to 36s for the coarsest.
• The count refers to the hanks of yarn, each 560 yards long, which can be
spun from 1 pound of wool top.
• A 64s wool yields 35,840 yards (560 times 64) of yarn from 1 pound of 64s

• The micron system - measures the average diameter of the wool fiber. The
micron (1/25,400 inch) is the actual average diameter measurement

• The blood system divides all wool, from finest to coarsest, into six market
grades: fine 1/2 blood, 3/8s blood, 1/4 blood, low 1/4 blood, common and
• Originally, these names referred to the fraction of Merino blood in the sheep
that produced the wool.
Wool value
• Determined by suitability for specific uses.
• Average fiber diameter
– most important
– standard deviation also important
Wool value
• Staple strength
• Color
• Crimp
– inversely related to fiber diameter
The natural curl or waviness in the wool fiber.

Fine wool usually has more crimp per inch than coarse (long) wool.
Refers to the length of a (unstretched) lock of shorn wool.

Long, coarse

Medium Coarse wools

are usually
longer than finer

Wool that has manure attached to it.
Removing the stained, unusable, or undesirable
portions of a fleece (bellies, top knots, tags).

Show fleeces and

other high value
fleeces should be
skirted at the time of
Wool judging
Wool judging score card
Characteristic Points
Estimated clean yield 35
Length 25
Quality or fineness 10
Soundness (strength) 10
Purity 10
Character and color 10
Total points 100

You will judge “like” (same type or grade) kinds of wool.

The amount of clean wool that remains after
scouring. Expressed as a percentage.

Wool yield is quite

variable: 40 to 70%.

Long wools have higher

yields than fine wools,
due to less grease.

Bulky fleeces have

higher yields.

Clean wool yield = Raw wool – shrinkage (VM, grease, impurities)

Quality or fineness

Appropriate grade for breed or type.

Look for uniformity of grade (fineness).
Finer wools are permitted less variability.
Soundness (strength)
Tender wool is wool that is weak and/or
breaks due to poor nutrition or sickness.

This wool does not have a break or tender spot.

Freedom from pigmented fibers, hair and kemp.

Black fiber/hairs

From a hair sheep The commercial wool

market favors white
wool that can be dyed
any color.
General appearance of a fleece:
crimp, handle, and color.
Weathered tips
Affects dyeing

“Tippy” wool
Preparation of the sheep
• Do not shear wet sheep.
• Pen animals in clean pens at least 4 hours
prior to shearing
• Hold off feed and water for at least 4 h.
Preparation of the sheep
• Separate sheep according to:
• wool type
• fiber diameter
• fiber length and style
• Black and spotted sheep
• Different breeds
• Grades of wool
Preparation of the sheep
• Lambs and weanlings
• One year old sheep (if shorn previously)
• New sheep
• Sick and diseased sheep
• Older sheep