• A Comparison of the Topmaking Performance of Wool from Sheep Selected by Index and Visual Methods

    The topmaking performance of fleeces from sheep that were ranked high or low on index selection using objective measurement was compared with that of sheep from the same flock that were ranked high or low on visual assessment. A flock of 451 15-month-old fine-wool Merino sheep were classed by 2 experienced fine-wool sheep classers into 3 grades: best, average and culls. Forty-four sheep were assessed as ‘best’ and 77 sheep were graded as ‘culls’ by both classers. These sheep were defined as the ‘best visual’ and ‘worst visual’ sheep, respectively. Measurements of clean fleece weight, mean fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and body weight were used in a selection index to rank all sheep in the flock. The selection index was designed to rapidly reduce mean fibre diameter and slowly increase clean fleece weight, whilst maintaining staple strength and body weight. The 44 sheep with the highest index value were defined as ‘best index’ sheep and the group of 77 sheep with the lowest index or obvious physical faults were defined as the ‘worst index’ sheep. Twenty-five fleeces were randomly selected from each of the ‘best’ and ‘worst visual’, ‘best’ and ‘worst index’ sheep for individual processing through to top. The fleeces from the ‘best index’ sheep produced greater quantities of tops that were significantly finer, longer, of lower curvature and produced less noil than all other groups. In contrast to the large difference in quality between tops from the ‘best’ and ‘worst index’ sheep, there was little difference in quality between tops from the ‘best’ and ‘worst visual’ sheep. This indicates that the traditional wool producer views of wool quality are unrelated to processing performance. It was concluded that Merino sheep selected by index selection using direct measurement of fleece weight, mean fibre diameter and coefficient of variation of diameter as selection criteria produced greater quantities of wool of superior processing performance to that from sheep selected using visual assessment. more »
  • The Effects of Pasture Inputs and Intensive Rotational Grazing on Superfine Wool Production, Quality and Income

    A farmlet experiment was conducted between July 2000 and December 2006 as part of the Cicerone Project, which sought to enhance the profitability and sustainability of grazing enterprises on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. A self-replacing Merino enterprise was grazed as the dominant livestock enterprise, together with ~20% of the carrying capacity as cattle, on each of three farmlet treatments: higher levels of soil fertility and pasture renovation with flexible rotational grazing over eight paddocks (farmlet A), moderate soil fertility and pasture renovation with flexible rotational grazing over eight paddocks (farmlet B) and moderate soil fertility and pasture renovation with intensive rotational grazing over 37 paddocks (farmlet C). Prior to commencement of the trial, the three 53-ha farmlets were allocated equivalent areas of land based on soil type, slope and recent fertiliser history. This paper describes the effects of the three pasture and grazing management strategies on the production, quality and value of the wool produced per head, per ha and per farmlet. Up until 2001 there were no differences in wool production between farmlets. Thereafter, significant differences between farmlets emerged in greasy fleece weight per head and price received per kg of fleece wool. For example, the clean fleece value averaged over the 2003–05 shearings for all hoggets, ewes and wethers was 1531, 1584 and 1713 cents/kg for farmlets A, B and C, respectively. There were small but significant differences, which varied between sheep class and year, between the farmlets in average fibre diameter and staple length but less so with staple strength. In general, while the differences between farmlets in staple strength varied over time, farmlets A and B tended to have wool with longer staple length and broader fibre diameter than farmlet C and this affected wool value per kg. Differences in wool income per ha between farmlets grew in later years as the farmlet treatments took effect. In spite of farmlet A having a slightly lower wool value per kg, after taking into account its greater fleece weight per head and its higher stocking rate, the total wool income per ha was higher than on either farmlets B or C. The average gross wool income per ha from 2003 to 2005 was $303, $215 and $180 for farmlets A, B and C, respectively. The highest amount of greasy wool produced was in 2004 when 38.2, 26.5 and 21.5 kg/ha was harvested from farmlets A, B and C, respectively. The fibre diameter profiles of 2-year-old ewes showed similar profiles for farmlets A and B but a significantly finer fibre diameter profile for farmlet C ewes due to intensive rotational grazing. However, sheep on all three farmlets produced wool with high staple strength. Multivariate analyses revealed that greasy fleece weight, staple length and staple strength were significantly positively correlated with the proportion of the farm grazed at any one time, and with soil phosphorus, legume herbage and green digestible herbage thus highlighting the significant influence of pasture and soil inputs and of grazing management on wool production and quality. more »
  • Effect of Selection for Wool Growth on Seasonal Patterns of Yield, Fibre Diameter, and Colour in Romney Lines

    Seasonal wool growth and associated wool characteristics were measured in a Romney line selected for high fleece weight and an unselected control line in 1990 and 1991. Both had a significant (P < 0.01) decline in wool growth rate in winter compared with summer. The wool growth rate advantage (P < 0.001) of the selected line over the control averaged 19 and 33% for ewes, and 24 and 36% for hoggets, in summer and winter, respectively. Staple strength, yield, and fibre diameter differences were closely associated with wool growth. Colour analysis showed no difference between lines in either brightness (Y) or yellowness (Y - Z). However, both the Y and Z values were lower in spring and summer, while Y - Z was highest in summer. The results suggest that selection for high fleece weight also improves major wool characteristics and reduces the relative winter wool growth decline in Romneys. more »
  • Factors Affecting Wool Scouring Performance, Yield and Colour Measurements of Western Australian Fleece Wools

    A benchtop scouring procedure was used to evaluate the ability of conventional detergent scouring systems to adequately clean fleece samples from a selection of Western Australian Merino wools. Sixteen fleeces were selected from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture resource flocks, covering a wide range in yield (49.2 to 77.5%), wax (7.3 to 26.9%), suint (4.9 to 11.6%), and dust (1.4 to 16.3%) contents. Using a simple detergent-based system, 50% of the fleeces were classified as effectively scoured, based on residual wax content. When scouring liquor was not refreshed between subsamples drawn from the same fleece, wool wax, staple length and dust content in the greasy fleece accounted for 93% of the variation in the rate of residual wax increase observed in sequential 10 g samples of wool. Residual ash content also increased but the greasy fleece parameters measured were not statistically significant predictors of residual ash changes. The rate of scoured wool colour change, when sequential samples of greasy wool from the same fleece were scoured without liquor change, could be predicted from greasy fleece yields. The scouring efficiency of the more difficult to scour wools was improved by the addition of sodium carbonate to the main scouring bowls. more »
  • Effects of Long Wool Insecticide Treatments on Lice Numbers and Wool Damage on Sheep

    Merino sheep infested with lice (Bovicola ovis) and with 8 months’ wool were hand jetted with a commercial spinosad formulation or treated with an α-cypermethrin backline product to examine the effect of long wool treatment on lice numbers and wool damage, relative to untreated controls. Mean lice numbers were reduced significantly (P < 0.05) by treatment and then remained relatively constant until shearing 20 weeks later. Treatment with either product resulted in significant improvements in mean clean and greasy wool cut, yield, staple length, both visually assessed and measured colour, and the proportion of fleeces classed into the main fleece line. There was no significant difference between the two treatments in either efficacy in reducing louse numbers or on production characters. Wool rub score and cotting assessed on the sheep increased slightly after treatment and then did not change until shearing whereas both scores increased significantly in the untreated group. There was a strong relationship between the visual rub score and the loss of wool at shearing, indicating that rub score can be a good predictor of lice-induced reduction in fleece weights. more »