to Sheep 101.
The purpose of Sheep 101 is to teach 4-H and FFA members,
students, teachers, beginning shepherds, and the general public
about sheep, their products, how they are raised, and their
contributions to society. The site uses simple language and
pictures to illustrate the various topics. To begin learning
about sheep, click on a link in the menu bar or choose a topic
from the drop down menu above.
author. The author of Sheep 101 is Susan
Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University
of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center.
Susan has been with University of Maryland Extension since 1988. She raises Katahdin sheep on her small farm, called
The Baalands, in Clear
Spring, Maryland. Susan has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science degrees from Virginia
Tech and Montana State University, respectively.
Sheep & Goat Specialist
W. MD Research & Education Center
University of Maryland Extension
firstname.lastname@example.org - (301) 432-2767 x343
One sheep produces anywhere from 2 to 30 pounds of wool annually.
The wool from one sheep is called a fleece, from many sheep, a
clip. The amount of wool that a sheep produces depends upon its
breed, genetics, nutrition, and shearing interval. Lambs produce
less wool than mature animals. Due to their larger size, rams
usually produce more wool than ewes of the same breed or type.
Long wool sheep
Long wool sheep usually produce the heaviest fleeces because their
fibers, though coarser, grow the longest. Hand spinners tend to
prefer wool from the long wool breeds because it is easier to
Medium wool sheep, raised more for meat than fiber, produce the
lightest weight, least valuable fleeces. Medium wool is usually
made into blankets, sweaters, or socks or it is felted.
Some sheep produce very coarse fibers. This type of wool is called
carpet wool, and as the name suggests is used to make carpets
Fine wool sheep
Fine wool sheep produce fleeces which usually have the greatest
value due to their smaller fiber diameter and versatility of use.
Hair sheep shed their coats and produce no usable fibers. The
"fleeces" from hair sheep and hair x wool crosses
should discarded. Their inclusion in the wool clip will contaminate
the entire clip. Even raising wool sheep along side hair sheep
or other shedding animals could affect fleece quality of the
wool sheep. Hair will not accept dye.
Value of wool
The value of wool is based on its suitability for specific end
uses, as well as the fundamentals of the world wool market. Raw
wool is usually purchased on the basis of grade. Grade denotes
the average fiber diameter and length of individual fibers. The
grade (or price) is reduced if the wool is dirty and contains
a lot of vegetable matter or other contaminants.
In the commercial market, white wool is more valuable than colored
wool because it can be dyed any color. Even the wool from sheep
with white faces is more valuable than the wool from sheep with
dark or moddled faces because the fleeces from non-white face
sheep may contain colored wool or hairs which cannot be dyed.
In contrast, naturally colored wools are often favored in the
Large producers of wool usually sell their wool to warehouses
or directly to wool mills. Sometimes, the wool is sold on a clean
(scoured) basis. Small producers often sell their wool (raw) through
wool pools. A wool pool is a collection point for wool from many
producers. At the pool, wool is sorted and packaged into different
lots. The entire pool is sold to one mill, often via silent bid.
Some producers sell their wool to hand spinners or have it made
into yarn or blankets. When prices are low, some producers throw
their wool away or give it to their shearer.
In the United States
In 2008, the average price paid for wool sold in the United States
was 99 cents per pound for a total value of $32.5 million. 443
million head of sheep were shorn in 2008. The average fleece weight
was 7.5 pounds.
Wool is a freely traded international commodity, subject to global
supply and demand. While wool represents only 3% of world fiber
production, it is important to many country's economies and way
of life. Australia dominates the world wool market. The United
States accounts for less than 1 percent of the world's wool production
and is a net importer of wool. The top states for wool production
are Texas, California, and Wyoming.