The Wool Quality Improvement Program (WQIP) was initiated in the spring of 1990. Its objective is to bring American-grown wool in line with international standards for preparation, packaging, testing and marketing, in order to provide processors with fiber from which top-quality wool garments and home furnishings can be manufactured.
Certified Classing and Wool Handling schools were developed to help educate producers and wool handlers in three areas that are vital to producing a quality wool clip production, harvesting and marketing. These schools train individuals in accepted wool preparation techniques, genetics, management of wool characteristics, skirting (separating of fleece by quality), classing (grouping like wool with like wool) and marketing. Within each area, programs are designed to encourage wool producers to provide the highest quality product possible.
The first step in production is genetic selection. Regardless of the overall objective, each producer is educated on how quality wool production can be achieved through sound selection decisions. Since the likelihood of passing good wool characteristics from one generation to the next is very high, producers are urged to use objective measurement as a tool in selection top quality wool-producing breeding stock. Proper management techniques are addressed to ensure that a quality product is harvested each spring. These plans are fashioned in a manner that allows grower flexibility in implementation due to the variety of production systems found throughout the United States.
Enhancing existing wool quality through proper harvesting techniques is emphasized. Shearing is the first step in this process.
Proper preparation is always viewed with the processor in mind. The goal is to provide the processor with the most uniform product possible. Effective skirting and classing methods are taught to achieve this goal so these techniques can be employed during the wool harvesting season.
Appropriate packaging of wool is an important component in the harvesting process. Acceptable packaging materials and procedures, handling and storage of packages are discussed with school participants.
The American wool industry employs the latest state-of-the-art instrumentation technology for measuring average fiber diameter of wool including Laserscan and Optical Fibre Diameter Analyzer. Microprojection is also used as a manual method for measuring wool fibers.
Costs of procuring wool can be very high. In an effort to reduce costs to buyers and maximize grower returns, offering wool with objective measurements is becoming the standard. This allows buyers to source wools with certainty and producers to obtain the proper value of their product. Also, historic wool test results can be used to develop genetic selection strategies which bring the entire process full circle.
More efficient marketing methods are being employed by the American woolgrowers to improve efficiency. Wool marketing businesses and cooperatives have formed associations to market wool by auction in one location, so buyers do not have to travel all over the country to purchase wool. Samples of each wool lot are brought to a central location for inspection by the buyers. A typing system has been utilized at these auctions to describe the wool for sale so the buyer can have confidence in the wool being offered.
Prepared by the American Sheep Industry Association, Inc.
9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360
Englewood, CO 80112
Phone: (303) 771-3500 _ Fax: (303) 771-8200