Sheep production in the United States has a rich history. Sheep have been a part of the American agricultural landscape since their introduction into the country by Spanish explorers in the 1500's. In the early American colonies, restrictions on the right to raise sheep and produce woolen textiles contributed to the American Revolution. By 1810, the U.S. had a thriving woolen textile industry in New England and sheep were a familiar sight in the countryside.
Today, wool is grown in all 50 United States. The majority of American wool is produced in areas of the western U.S. where the ground is rough and barren or in high altitudes where other animals cannot survive because of lack of vegetation.
The vast American countryside provides an array of climates and conditions conducive to wool production. More than 35 different breeds of sheep gaze in these varied environments--from the deserts of the Southwest to the lush green hillsides along the eastern seaboard.
Estimated Clip Breakdown
|22 Micron & Finer||27.7%||10, 459|
|31 Micron & Coarser||3.9%||1,480|
As shown in the table above, the result is a range of wools from the finest to the coarsest microns. This makes American wool suitable for a wide variety of products including fine worsted suiting, knitwear, woolen velours and coatings, upholstery, bedding materials for futons, mattresses and comforters, and industrial products.
Wool is truly a renewable resource. Sheep produce this unique fiber through the conversion of natural resources, which might otherwise be wasted. In an age when quality, value and ecological concerns are paramount in the minds of consumers, wool offers the perfect answer--a natural, renewable fiber with exceptional performance.
There are a variety of methods used to market American wool. Methods vary by region of the country.
Wool growers in the eastern two-thirds of the country produce mostly smaller volumes of wool. These small volumes are not efficiently handled individually. Consequently, growers in this region of the U.S. market their wool through wool warehouses or wool pools.
Wool warehouses in this part of the country employ shearers who shear wool from the sheep and then either purchase it directly from the grower or transport the wool to the warehouse on a consignment basis. In either case, the wool is brought to the warehouse, graded and put into suitable packages for purchase by the wool trade.
Wool pools are used by producers, not only in the eastern U.S. but in other areas as well. Producers use a wool pool as another means of bringing together smaller volumes of wool to improve the marketability of the wool through larger lot size. There are more than 100 wool pools located through the country.
In the Western U.S., growers utilize warehouses; wool pools and direct marketing. Some warehouses do buy wool directly, but the majority of the wool is taken in on consignment and marketed on behalf of the grower. Warehouses are located in many of the western states. They are particularly concentrated in Texas and New Mexico where nearly 100 percent of the wool grown in those states is marketed through a warehouse. In total, there are more than 40 warehouses scattered throughout the country.
There is also a network of dealers and brokers who buy wool. Some travel from ranch to ranch to buy wool while others deal directly with the warehouse to purchase their needs. There are more than 30 brokers/dealers of wool in the United States.
U.S. mills produce many fine textiles--from lightweight worsteds to fancy woolens. The majority of wool mills are located along the East Coast. These mills were once concentrated in the New England area and this area continues to be the home of several woolen mills. However, many mills have now migrated to the Southeast.
There are two commission top makers operating in the U.S. along with four wool scourers.
Prepared by the American Sheep Industry Association, Inc.
9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360
Englewood, CO 80112
Phone: (303) 771-3500 _ Fax: (303) 771-8200