If you are thinking about raising sheep for wool, you are naturally wondering how much wool per sheep you can expect annually. While this may seem like a simple question, it really is not. The amount of wool an individual sheep is able to produce depends upon many factors, including, breed, size, gender, feeding, climate and more. In this article, we explore and discuss how much wool does a sheep produce and other aspects of wool production. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
Is It Profitable To Raise Sheep For Wool?
The wool trade is extremely well established. In fact, wool was the very first product to be traded worldwide. Even so, with the passage of time its importance as a trading commodity has diminished.
Early in the 20th century, wool production was the main reason for keeping sheep. Today, meat production is more important. Most sheep farms make their money with the sale of lambs for meat.
When selling wool commercially, profit potential is limited; however, certain niche markets can generate sizable profits. One such niche market is hand spinners. Wool sold in this market must be of the finest quality.
If you are able to reliably produce very high quality fleeces, you may be able to get between $15-$20 a pound for your wool. This same wool might only fetch 75 cents a pound on the commercial market.
Another way to make more with your fine wool is to have it spun into yarn yourself. Then the yarn can be sold to cooperative ventures and crafters creating scarves and other hand-made products.
Fine Wool Production Requires Great Care
Producing fleeces for these purposes takes a bit more work than producing them for the commercial market. You must take great care with your flocks’ handling, health care, feeding and housing.
Shearing must also be done very carefully, and the fleeces must be skirted (wool mostly from the underside of the sheep removed from the fleece) so that the remaining fleece is clean and silky.
To ensure the very best quality fleece, you may want to keep your sheep covered to prevent their wool from becoming stained or sunburned.
This means a significant amount of work for you because covering makes fleece grow faster, so you’ll need to change the covers frequently to allow room for growth.
How Much Wool Per Sheep Can You Expect?
Not all sheep are wool producers, but about ninety percent of sheep breeds do produce wool. That production ranges from two pounds of wool a year to thirty pounds. It all depends on the type of sheep, its age, size, gender, genetics, care and feeding and the climate.
Lambs and younger sheep will naturally produce less fleece than mature sheep. Large rams will naturally produce more wool than small ewes. Sheep whose parents were good wool producers are likely to produce more wool. Those that are well cared for will naturally produce more wool.
Of the wool producing sheep, those that are termed “long wool sheep” produce the most wool; however, it is coarse and generally used to produce household textiles. This type of wool will not fetch the highest price per pound.
Sheep that are typically raised for meat production are usually of sorts that will produce wool termed “medium wool”. This quality of wool is used to produce common items such as blankets, socks and sweaters. It is also not a big money maker.
As we have mentioned, “fine wool” is the most profitable grade, especially when sold to hand spinners or spun into yarn for sale to crafters. This type of wool is very silky and can be used to produce high quality garments that can be worn close to the skin due to little or no itchiness.
Understanding & Raising Sheep : Types Of Sheep Wool
In addition to texture, wool color also affects its value. A pure white fleece will sell for quite a bit more than one that is off-white or has any mottling or markings. Pure white wool can be easily dyed to any shade uniformly. A fleece that has any discoloration will not dye true.
Which Breeds Produce The Finest Wool?
If you are going to raise sheep for wool, it makes good sense to invest in high quality stock of a preferred breed.
It costs just as much to feed and house a poor quality sheep as one with a fine pedigree, so you should not balk at making a substantial initial investment in your stock because you will earn your investment back quickly.
Look for these breeds:
- Blue Faced Leicester
It’s easy to see that the profit you stand to make with wool production from these smart animals is dependent on a lot of wise decisions and hard work on your part.
When you choose good stock from the outset and then take great care to feed and house them well and harvest their wool with skill, you will have a better chance of attracting wool buyers from high value niche markets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Raising sheep for meat has a faster profit turnaround, but raising them for wool is a sustainable, long term investment. It takes longer to get a lamb to shearing age than to slaughtering age, but you can shear a sheep over and over again. If you are able to combine this with milk production, you have a good money-making enterprise that you can count on.
These terms refer to the practice of shearing a ewe’s rump, rear legs and area surrounding the udder before the birth of a lamb. This makes delivery of the lamb cleaner and easier, and it removes any dirty wool that the lamb might mistakenly suck on when looking for the udder.
This process should be completed three or four weeks before the expected delivery.
Sucking on dirty wool can introduce harmful bacteria to the lamb’s digestive system.
Very often lamb’s tails are docked (shortened) right after birth. This helps prevent problems with flies settling on and biting the tail causing soreness and injury. A sheep’s tail that is not docked can quickly become infected if it is covered with fly bites and then becomes contaminated with droppings.