May 15, 2004
May 2004 -- Two Australian wool-producing brothers are a lot richer these days thanks to their belief in technology - more specifically wool-oriented, on-farm technology.
Rick and Bam Goodrich of Queensland are crediting the OFDA2000, a suitcase-sized image analysis unit that rapidly determines average fiber diameter, for helping them achieve their world-breaking record - the production of an 11-micron bale of wool that sold for about (AUD) $675,000 (roughly U.S. $496,000.)
"Our intention is to produce the best fiber - to meet the specifications and requirements of the very top processors, and, simply put, we couldn't have done it without the OFDA2000," said Bim.
The Goodrichs were early adopters of the Interactive Wool Group (IWG) OFDA2000 technology developed in Western Australia by BSC Electronics. The two brothers started using OFDA2000 during shearing three years ago, and now own two units and lease a third, all of which receive management software updates.
"We saw there was a demand in our local wool growing community for this type of technology and now we have operators measuring growers' clips in northern New South Wales and a lot of Queensland," said Bim.
"Wool producers, in our area, can see if they use a micron-measurement tool, such as OFDA2000, they can make a significant difference to the management of their sheep and the marketing of their wool every year," Bim added.
Such an approach to sheep management and wool marketing is within American wool growers' reach, says Bob Padula, wool quality improvement consultant to the American Wool Council. In fact, an ever-increasing number of American wool growers are turning to OFDA2000 to learn what type of wool their sheep produce - as well as what steps they need to take to improve the quality of their clip.
"The milestone of breaking the 12-micron barrier didn't happen overnight - it had been years in the making," said Padula. "We certainly have the skills, tools and technology in the United States to help make this happen, but it won't be overnight.
"It would be nice to give the Australians a run for their money - they are not the only ones who can grow wool," added Padula. "In U.S. terms, the wool sold for more than $2,500 per pound. At that price, people quickly become excited about wool production."
Other benefits of OFDA2000 optimization abound. Its use in interlotting, or pairing like wools with like wools, typically results in fairer prices paid to producers, and ensures mills and other end users are provided with a clip of tighter specifications. Some individuals use it to test - and improve - their ability in determining micron by the naked eye. Still others use it in their selection of breeding stock or determining which animals should be culled. (Fiber diameter is a highly heritable trait, so one of the quickest ways to improve fleece value is to select for fine-wooled ewes and rams.)
"Most U.S. growers are using the OFDA2000 for a 'one-two punch' in their operations," said Padula. "The first punch involves using it for classing purposes and putting up more uniform lines of wool - or separating out those fleeces that are under 19.6 and 18.5 micron. The second punch is even more important and involves utilizing the data for genetic selection programs - as genetic changes tend to be more permanent.
"We know that assessment, when done visually, is only about 70-percent accurate," added Padula, "and that just does not cut it today. This technology is a welcome advancement for American sheep producers."
With assistance from the American Sheep Industry Association, the University of Wyoming, University of Nevada-Reno, Montana State University, Texas A&M University and Producers' Marketing Cooperative, Inc. all have OFDA2000 equipment, which is utilized to conduct research and outreach programs with sheep producers nationwide.
To learn more about OFDA technology visit Web site www.OFDA.com
is the world's first, portable, computerized, fiber-measurement instrument, the first to measure greasy wool and diameter profile along the staple.
Measurements from greasy wool staples include:
- mean fiber diameter;
- percentage of fibers greater than 30 microns;
- curvature and standard deviation of curvature;
- staple length and along staple profile; and
- position of the finest and broadest points along the staple.