Adding Value to Medium to Low Grade Wool
The viability of an operation depends on its resourcefulness. Sheep efficiently clean out low quality grains and marginal grazing grounds, control broadleaf growth in pastures and enhance forage yields with nutrient-rich manure. Income comes from lamb sales. However, current wool prices do not justify shearing and market costs.
Objective: To add value to medium and low grade wool.
The producer raises Franklin X Columbia sheep, which thrive on lower input and less intensive management practices than purebred wool breeds. However, these sheep produce lower quality and multi-colored wool that usually can not be marketed, except to spinners.
The producer organized the "Aurora Wool" cooperative and remodeled a barn into a wool processor, complete with a commercial-sized carder, motorized hand picker and felting machine. The wool is skirted, washed, dried, picked, carded, lapped and made into felt or spinning yarn.
The felt is then manufactured into quilting batt, clothing and clothing kits, saddle blankets, buffing pads, stuffed animals and garden mulch. These products are sold to craft and fabric stores, and individual crafters through website purchases.
Results: About two pounds of raw wool made one pound of carded wool. Eleven pounds of carded wool was converted into one 3-by-4 foot sheet of felt, and each sheet sold for $20 per sheet.
The project is extended for website completion and to gather market data.