Wool is comfortable to wear year-round because it's an absorbent fiber that helps regulate body temperature. (When the air is cool and damp, wool absorbs moisture and keeps a layer of dry, insulating air next to the skin. Conversely, when it's warm, that same absorption capacity takes up perspiration, making the body's natural cooling system work better.)
Woolen garments are a great investment. Since wool fibers resist pilling, snagging and breaking, woolen garments typically outlast synthetic sweaters. Furthermore, since wool fibers are naturally elastic, woolen garments don't wrinkle, bag or sag out of shape.
Wool is a safe fabric -- it is the only fiber that naturally resists flaming. Unlike most artificial fibers, which often melt and stick to the skin when on fire, wool usually only smolders or chars. Although it will burn under intense fire, it normally self-extinguishes when the flame source is removed. Many consumer safety experts advocate wearing woolen garments when flying.
The U.S. sheep industry traditionally focuses on wool during the spring months. In fact, approximately 63 percent of American-produced wool is shorn during April, May and June. In 1999, the U.S. sheep industry produced approximately 46.5 million lbs. of wool.
American wool has many uses. In addition to its well-known uses in clothing, fabrics, yarn, felt and carpet, American wool is used to make insulation, rug pads, baseballs and tennis balls.
Some of the major wool processors in the United States include Burlington, Pendleton, Forstmann and Chargeurs.
U.S. mills must purchase Australian and New Zealand wool in order to meet their wool needs. Australia provides mostly finer wool, which is used in making apparel, while New Zealand provides mostly coarser wool, which is used in making numerous industrial and home interior products. Although the United States buys Australian wool, it is not even in Australia's top 10 destinations.
China and Hong Kong are the largest wool buyers, regardless of where the wool is produced. Together, the two countries annually purchase approximately 20 percent of the world's wool clip. Italy is the second largest user of Australian wool, purchasing approximately half as much as Australia and New Zealand combined.
Since the U.S. wool clip most closely resembles Australian clip, U.S. wool prices most closely mirror Australian wool prices. Asia also plays a major role in determining the price of U.S. wool because it is a major destination for Australian wool. This means that Australian wool prices are largely dependent on the economic conditions of Asian countries, which in turn means American wool prices are, too. However, wool prices are determined by other factors including physical characteristics, worldwide supply and demand conditions, and the market success of competing fibers -- both natural and man-made.
Prepared by the American Sheep Industry Association, Inc.
9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360
Englewood, CO 80112
Phone: (303) 771-3500 _ Fax: (303) 771-8200