Scanner May be the Wool Tool of FutureLORI MCGEHEE
ASI Director of Industry Information
A scanner may soon be the best and most inexpensive tool to measure wool on the farm, according to study funded by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI).
A few years ago Dr. Reid Redden, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Sheep Extension Specialist, was asked if a smart phone could be used to measure wool.
With so many smart phone apps available, Redden thought there might be potential for such a wool app, resulting in an ASI grant of $22,000 to the university to test this hypothesis.
Redden began working on the project with professor Cannayen from the NDSU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering group, and the pair discovered that a smart phone does not work for measuring wool because the phone’s camera does not have a high enough resolution level.
However, the idea evolved into using a scanner, which has a high resolution and is fairly inexpensive.
Initially the team tested the scanner using USDA-graded wool to see if the scanner would properly rank it, and they were very pleased with the results.
The scanner was able to identify large differences in the strands of wool and ranked all of them in order.
However, laying out the wool on the scanner was quite time consuming. The team’s the next goal was to simplify the lay out and expedite the process.
For the second measurement, rather than painstakingly laying out each strand of wool, they randomly laid the wool on the scanner using 100 sourced and scanned samples from the shearing school.
The samples were first run on an OFDA machine to determine the precise measurement.
Redden’s study resulted in two ways to measure - a single fiber measurement, the time consuming method, and multi fiber measurement, the faster way of laying out the wool.
The scanner can measure the wool fiber thickness by grading the image and also takes 170 measures and then reports the minimum, maximum, average and standard measurements.
“We hope this can be used as an affordable tool on the ranch,” Rita Kourlis Samuelson, wool marketing director, said. “Ideally, it will give the producer an idea of the micron and other necessary measurements. It can be used on the farm for sorting and sheep selection.”
According to Dr. Redden, research must continue in order to develop standard ways of measuring wool to assure that this new and affordable tool will work consistently.