Saturday, May 12, 2012


I was comparing micron counts from two different times and found something interesting to ponder on. Fine- does fine (meaning super fine) as a lamb really matter? If a lamb is med. fine and stays med. fine vs. a super fine lamb who ends up med. fine is there any difference? One only gets one lamb fleece. Fife was the finest ram as a lamb, but as an adult he is not my finest ram. A couple boys changed very little from their lamb fleeces to their third fleece. Yes, it is easy to tell that their fleeces are adult fleeces as the wool is greasier, less tippy and smellier than lamb's wool. All of the rams's birth coats were the fine crimpy kind.

Fairlight(white) an F1 Jings was 26.6 Ave, 6.3 SD, 23.8 CV, 10.6 CEM, 26.6 SF and 72.1 CF (note: soft, silky hand and a meduim crimp) as a lamb. Two years later, as a three year old he only coarsened 1 micron. What's more his SD and CV are both lower!

Fairlight-     27.6 Ave, 5.7 SD, 20.6 CV, 10.2 CEM, 0.3<15, 69.7 CF, 26.8 SF, 24.1 Min, 31.2 Max, 62.4 CRV- 3 years

PS23 Fandango (grey katmoget) an F2 Greyling/F3 Orion is 25.8 Ave, 5.8 SD, 22.5 CV, 9.9 CEM, 23.4 SF and 89.4 CF (note: silky hand and meduim crimp) as a lamb. Two years later, as a three year old he only coarsened 0.2 micron!

Fandango-  26.0 Ave, 6.1 SD, 23.6 CV, 10.4 CEM, 2.7<15, 75.5 CF, 25.9 SF, 22.6 Min, 29.9 Max, 69.2 CRV

PS23 Fife (moorit)an F1 Orion is 23.7 Ave, 5.4 SD, 22.6 CV, 9.5 CEM, SF23.4 and CF 88.7 (Note: very soft, but a bit cottony, very crimpy, tight crimp.) as a lamb. Two years later, as a three year old he coarsened 3.6 microns. His SD is the same and CV is 0.1 lower.

Fife- 27.3 Ave, 6.1 SD, 22.5 CV, 11.3 CEM, 1.1<15, 72.1 CF, 26.9 S,F 24.7 Min, 30.1 Max ,56.9 CRV

PS23 Craigrothie (white) an F1 Skeld was 26.6 Ave, 6.5 SD, 24.5 CV, 11.7 CEM, 26.8 SF, 72.3 CF  Four years later, as a six year old he coarsened 0.5 microns (I don't know what his lamb fleece was.) His SD and CV are both lower. 

Craigrothie-27.1Ave 6.1SD 22.6CV 11.4CEM 0.5<15 72.5CF 26.8SF 24.5Min 29.0Max 50.2CRV

Some observations from what I've seen at the mill I work at and from my own flock/herd:

Some breeds seem to change more from lambswool to adult wool than others. The longwools all seem to change a lot from lamb to adult. Some of the Coopworth lambswool (and Romney)  when carded almost seem like Corriedale. As adults they are not nearly as bouncy, are much shiner and silkier. Lincolns' lambswool is like kid mohair, but the adult can be like shiny wire. There is not such a drastic difference between lamb and adult in the Corriedales or CVM or East Frisian/ Lacaune dairy sheep (at least in a friend who has 500 of them's flock, but he is not concerned about wool so much as milk.) Those are all more med. wool. Even though Fife changed a lot on paper, I couldn't tell by the hand that he changed that much. 

The more double coated wools (American think NAIL and the BSG) show type Shetlands, Icelandic have a huge difference between lamb and adult. Icelandic lamb is fairly soft and not nearly as many guard hairs (or they are just finer.) In comparison the adult is often quite coarse. Yeah, the Icelandic breeders say that the inner coat is so fine, but from what I've seen (over 50 fleeces) the inner coat is not fine. It can be med. fine, but often is not very soft. Really double coated wools (except Karakul and SBF ) don't card very well many of the times. What happens is the inner coat which most of the time is 1/3 of the length of the rest of the fiber pills or come off the machine in clumps. However the customers who have Icelandic wool seem to love it. There are some great uses for Icelandic wool. 

Camelid both llama and alpaca-yes, even Huacaya alpaca seem to change a lot over the years. Some Huacaya that I've seen is slightly double coated with a few guard hair. Many alpaca fleeces from older animals is only med. fine to quite coarse. Some of those coarse (not next to the skin soft, more rug, blanket or strong socks grade) alpacas I know for a fact are from a "top" alpaca herd, one of which get $1000s of $ for the animals. The people who own the alpacas (many who don't spin and think if it is carded they will suddenly know how to use alpaca fiber and be able to sell it for big $$) have said where they got their animals from, some even have a copy of the animal's reg. paper in with the fleece. Yes, I have seen a handful of very nice fine and soft alpaca fleeces.I have also seen llama that has been really nice, fine and silky without any guard hairs. Most are 1-3 clip of either breed of alpaca. I'm not sure if their are any old alpacas who stay fine. If there are they are the ones who should be the sires. I know alpaca people don't really "cull"anything. They sell their lower quality animals as pets or breedingstock to be improved with the sire who is $500-1000 just for a breeding fee.

Most mohair changes a lot from kid to adult. (In a good goat the true adult grade is not until the goat is at least 4.)  Goats (as well as the camelid) seem to have a continue of gradually coarsening fleece. Hence so many grades: kid/ second clip kid/ yearling/ fine adult/ adult/ rug. In TX they have some highly selected goats who have kid grade their whole lives. Those goats are worth $1000 of dollars. The buck I got from TX is five now and his fleece was kid grade for about 3 or 4 years. When it was washed (in the grease it is easy to tell apart due to the smell) I could not tell it apart from washed kid mohair. His fleece is more of a second clip kid or very fine yearling now. The down he has a very light weight fleece. His mohair is probably only 3# per shearing. His kids all have had denser and heavier fleeces. His kids (all of which have been out of CAGBA goats) are also not as fine. I guess I need to see what his kids would be like out of pure AAGBA goats. I do have some this year, but won't know what their adult mohair will be like for a couple of years.  I have two friends who both have one of my TX guy's half brothers and both have much bigger fleeces and are not as fine. They are more yearling or fine adult grade.  

I guess the point is, except in longwools (The longwool wouldn't really be longwool grade if the adult fleece was the same as the lamb fleece) and the double coated breeds, perhaps the ones who change the least, if they can pass on not changing much as far as fleece are more valuable as breeding sires than ones who do change a lot or at least not any less valuable than a ram who starts out at 19.00-22.00 microns and then coarsens to 25/26 microns than one who started at 25/26 microns and STAYED there? 


  1. You raise a great question. Someone who is marketing their fleeces, would want the super fine lamb fleece, even if that sheep only yields that one time. But, as a breeder, I want the one that stays constant. That is a trait that is worth passing on. I would imagine everyone looks at this differently, and my opinion is worth about what it costs.


  2. At what age are you testing for the "lamb fleece" results? After testing lambs once in the fall of their first year, I decided I'd wait to test everyone for the first time at one year of age, and then yearling just before spring shearing thereafter.

    Anyway, I likewise would place higher value on the animal whose fleece (as long as it started out at least fine) stayed more consistent through time.

  3. You do raise an excellent question Laura. I would agree that a more consistent animal would be of greater value. Saying that though, your animals that stayed consistent were either white or grey kat, both of which tend to be finer than a moorit (or black). Getting a line of moorits and blacks that were fine and soft handling would be a good goal to work towards.

    SD's, as I think most of us who do testing have found, usually do fall by the second fleece (or stay consistent) with the more single coated animals. Most likely this is due to the birth coat falling out.

    Your experience in working in a wool mill is invaluable. Keep assessing the fleeces and please keep us posted on your observations. The empirical data you are collecting serves all of us. Thanks!

  4. Michelle-The lamb fleece sample was at a year.

    Theresa- Fife the moorit boy is still soft and crimpy. He is actually the crimpiesed (bounciest) fleeced ram of the lot.

    Rich- I do market my fleeces. I personally don't know what I would do with a fleece that was only 19 microns as really fine pills, except make top with it. However I do think there is use for an animal that is around 19/20 microns as an adult. I would love to use a super fine ram some day as I think that would help some of my fleeces fine up to a med. fine grade. Who knows though, I may change my mind and learn to spin lace yarn and then want 19 micron wool! I change my mind all the time about all sorts of things...