Many U.S. wool buyers, warehousemen and wool processors gathered at the joint Idaho, Wyoming and Utah Wool Growers meeting Nov. 9-10 to discuss the 2012 wool season and to provide insight into the upcoming year. The panel consisted of Larry Prager and Scott Lammers, Center of the Nation Wool; Jason Banowsky, Lempriere USA; Mike Corn, Roswell Wool; Dan Gutzman, Pendleton Woolen Mills; Will Griggs, Utah Wool Marketing; Terry Martin and Rick Honaker, Anodyne Wool; and Bruce Barker, Great Plains Wool Co.
A general opinion was that the 2012 wool market was driven by a declining economic situation across Europe in conjunction with a warmer winter across the northern hemisphere, both resulting in disappointing garment sales last year. A larger inventory of garments resulted in less processing into fabrics, which ultimately resulted in less demand and lower trends in global raw-wool prices. The declining value of the U.S. dollar and the corresponding increase in the value of the Australian dollar was another contributing factor. It was also noted that the declining demand for goods forced China, the world's largest wool processing country, to reduce overall production of finished garments.
Consensus among the buyers and warehousemen was that continued better preparation of U.S. wools would result in broader demand and a wider array of uses of U.S. wools, regardless of micron. Specifically, the continued removal and separation of bellies from fleeces, topknots, leg wool, tags and second cuts and any off colored wool due to stains. Buyers and processors continued to note the problems being experienced with black fibers in white wool, contamination of hair-sheep fibers and poly contamination. Excess branding paint and markers were also discussed along with suggestions for handling paint on cold days, application recommendations (keep brands to 4 mm or less) and the axiom that " less is better" when applying paint.
The panel expressed the need for a larger supply of wool to meet the demand. Reduced supplies from declining sheep numbers have resulted in higher overhead costs for all segments of the wool industry. Due to the large volume of wool needed for processors to minimize costs, any problems or issues that occur with the wool results in higher costs.
It was reiterated that developing a plan with the shearing crew can reduce contamination as well as decrease the stress for the sheep and the labor during harvest. Making contact with the buyer or warehouse representative to discuss potential wool outlets can also assist in proper wool preparation.