Where there’s wool . . .

06/04/2009

We watched shearers taking the fleeces off sheep in amazement in Cumbria in amazement. It wasn’t so much wool as hair and it was going to be burned.

That would never happen in New Zealand, we said with just a touch of smugness, because when you don’t have subsidies you wouldn’t waste your energy and money on sheep with worthless fleeces.

But we spoke too soon. The ODT reports that when the costs of shearing came to more than the returns from wool Bruce Willis, chair of Federated Farmers Meat & Wool section, decided to farm sheep for meat only.

Merino is doing better, helped by quality products and niche marketing with brands like Icebreaker and Untouched World, but strong, or coarse as it is so prosaicly called – wool has gone backwards.

Much of the world covers their floors in tiles rather than carpets and research into alternative uses for the fibre has had mixed success.

There was hope that wool could be used to soak up oil spills but that doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. Wool insulation had a point of difference with consumers who prefer natural to synthetic fibres but isn’t widely used.

AgResearch’s stab and flame resistant wool fabric aroused interest at last year’s fashion week, but we need much more than that or a lot more farmers will be farming sheep for meat not fibre because where there’s wool there’s not much money.


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