• Sheep Coats Can Economically Improve the Style of Western Fine Wools

    Wethers from a mixed bloodline flock in western New South Wales were coated for 12 months between August 1998 and August 1999. The coated and a similar number of uncoated control wethers from each of the 11 bloodlines (2 medium, 3 fine and 6 superfine) were grazed together as part of a larger mob. Dye bands were placed in the fleeces of each wether before fitting of the coats and were removed before shearing when a mid-side sample was taken and a number of subjective assessments made of each fleece. The major effect of the sheep coats was to improve the style of the coated wool by about 1 style grade. This was largely the result of the coated fleeces being whiter, with less tip weathering and lower levels of dust and vegetable matter. There was no significant difference between the 2 treatment groups in wool production, fibre diameter, staple strength or resistance to compression. A partial budgeting approach was used to evaluate the economic returns from using sheep coats based on the observed differences in wool quality. Clean prices and wool values per head for the coated and uncoated sheep from each of the 11 bloodlines were calculated using NSW Agriculture's wether trial software and the flock least squares means for each wool trait. The analysis established it would be economically viable to coat all the sheep except the medium-wool sheep. Even allowing for 20% improvement in the price differential for medium wool, coating them was not economically viable. more »
  • Measuring Fabric Handle to Define Luxury: An Overview of Handle Specification in Next-to-Skin Knitted Fabrics from Merino Wool

    An examination is presented of the relevance of luxury to the wool textile and garment supply chain. This examination leads to a review of the concept and importance of fabric handle as a means of defining important aspects of fabric quality. Examples are given for woven fabrics of the general relationships between subjectively assessed fabric handle attributes such as fabric softness and smoothness and measured low stress, generally high deformation, fabric properties such as fabric bending rigidity and extensibility. A brief overview is presented of the development of a system for predicting a set of subjectively assessed handle attributes for next-to-skin knitted fabrics from measurable fabric properties. Seven handle attributes selected by experienced assessors as being important for defining tactile sensations associated with next-to-skin knitted fabrics were: fabric smoothness, hairiness, softness, tightness, dryness, warmth and weight. Subjective assessments on a 1–10 scale of these seven attributes, plus an assessment of overall handle, were conducted by 12 experienced assessors on 74 next-to-skin knitted fabrics. The precision of the mean assessment of the 12 assessors ranged between 0.8 and 1.1, indicating that there was sufficient consensus on key fabric handle assessments to justify development of a method for predicting them from measurements of the physical properties of fabrics. All fabrics were tested using the PhabrOmeter fabric evaluation system, which records the force exerted during insertion of a fabric into and through an orifice. Geometric parameters were derived to describe the PhabrOmeter force-displacement curve results, and statistical models were developed to predict the average handle assessments of the 12 assessors. The precision of the models in predicting the handle intensities of eight fabric attributes on an independent validation set of 22 fabrics was significantly better than the precision of an individual assessor (confidence limits = 1.4–2.6 and 2.5–3.8, for predicted and assessed ratings, respectively). A case is made that this technology has the potential to assist in the growth of new markets for Merino wool products. more »
  • Selenium Supplementation Increases Wool Growth and Reduces Faecal Egg Counts of Merino Weaners in a Selenium-Deficient Area

    This paper reports on the effects of selenium supplementation on liveweight (LW), greasy fleece weight (GFW), fibre diameter (FD), impact of parasite infection and plasma glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity in weaned Merino sheep reared in a selenium-deficient area (blood GSH-Px < 40 U/g Hb). At weaning, 208 Merino wethers were assigned to two groups: control (CTRL) and treatment (SEL). The SEL group was injected with 0.5 mL of Deposel, a slow release selenium injection. LW, blood and faecal samples were taken at 6-week intervals over a 24-week period. At the end of the trial the animals were shorn and GFW and FD measurements were taken. The SEL group had significantly higher (P < 0.01) LW compared with the CTRL group at Weeks 6, 12, 18 and 24. There was a significant difference (P < 0.05) in GFW between the SEL and CTRL group, 2.93 and 2.75 kg, respectively. There was no difference in FD between the two groups. A trend (P < 0.06) towards lower faecal egg counts in the SEL group was seen but the difference between the two groups was not significant. As expected, the SEL group had significantly (P < 0.001) higher plasma GSH-Px activity compared with the CTRL group. In conclusion, selenium supplementation in weaned Merino sheep reared in a selenium-deficient area could increase the LW and GFW of the young sheep while perhaps reducing the level of parasitic infection. more »
  • Do Price Premiums for Wool Characteristics Vary for Different End Products, processing Routes and Fibre Diameter Categories?

    No Australian wool price hedonic studies have separated auction data into different end product-processing groups (PPR) on the basis of all fibre attributes that affect the suitability of wool sale lots for PPR. This study was conducted to assess: (1) whether including information about PPR groupings is more useful in understanding price than clustering by broad fibre diameter (FD) categories, and (2) if the ‘noise’ of macroeconomic effects on price can be reduced by using a clean price relative to the market indicator (RelPrice) formula or a log RelPrice formula compared with log price or clean price. Hedonic models using data derived from 369 918 Australian auction sale lots in 2010–2011 were estimated for these four dependent price variables. Linear FD models predicted less of price’s variance than quadratic or exponential models. Segmenting wool sale lots into 10 PPR before wool price analyses was found to increase the proportion of price variance explained and thus be worthwhile. The change in price with a change in FD, staple length and staple strength differs significantly between PPR. Calculating RelPrice or log RelPrice appears a better price parameter than clean price or log price. Comparing the RelPrice and clean price models, the mean absolute percentage errors were 6.3% and 16.2%, respectively. The differences in price sensitivity to FD, staple length and staple strength across PPR implies a complex set of price-setting mechanisms for wool as different users place different values on these wool properties. These price-setting mechanisms need to be incorporated in hedonic models for agricultural products that possess this characteristic. The wool price premiums can be used to estimate relative economic values when constructing sheep breeding selection indexes and can help determine the most profitable wool clip preparation strategies. more »
  • Nutrition During Fetal Life Alters Annual Wool Production and Quality in Young Merino Sheep

    The effect of maintenance v, submaintenance diets of pregnant ewes in 1991 and 1992 on establishment of the wool follicle population in their progeny, and its effect on the progeny's wool production (quantity, quality and variation across the body of the animal) to 1.4 years of age was examined. The experimental protocol used cloned animals created by bisecting embryos at day 6 of pregnancy. Each clone was placed in a ewe, which was subsequently fed from about day 50 to 140 of pregnancy at maintenance or submaintenance. Ewes on maintenance nutrition maintained liveweight throughout pregnancy, while submaintenance ewes were 12.1 kg lighter (P < 0.001) 10 days before lambing. In 1991, a total of 74 lambs were born, including 17 sets of surviving clones. In 1992, 102 lambs were born, including 18 sets of surviving clones. Only data for the 35 sets of genetically identical 'twin' progeny and their dams are reported. Birth weights of lambs born to ewes fed at the submaintenance rate were 0.5 kg lighter (P < 0.01) than their 'twins' born to ewes fed at maintenance. Midside secondary:primary (Sf: Pf) ratios for mature wool follicles were less (P < 0.01) at birth, lamb and hogget shearing (1.4, 1.5 and 2.1 units respectively) for the progeny born to ewes fed at submaintenance. Progeny from ewes on the submaintenance treatment produced less clean wool, 0.1 kg to 0.4 years of age (P < 0.01) and 0.14 kg between 0.4 and 1.4 years of age (P = 0.10), than their maintenance counterparts. Hogget wool was 0.1 pm broader (P < 0.05), with a 0.5% units lower coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (P < 0.01), and a position of break closer to the staple tip (P < 0.001) for progeny of submaintenance ewes than their maintenance counterparts. There were no significant differences in yield, staple length, staple strength and percentage of fibres greater than 30 pm in diameter. Differences in mean fibre diameter arose between 1 and 1.4 years of age, coinciding with the period that the animals were grazing high quality pasture. Effects of maternal undernutrition on mean fibre diameter and Sf: Pf follicle ratios of progeny were most pronounced on the hind leg (P < 0.01), and not significant on the front leg. However, variations in other wool quality traits across the body of the hoggets, expressed as a percentage of the midside value, were not significantly affected by maternal undernutrition. Clearly when evaluating management strategies for the pregnant ewe, the effect on lifetime production and quality of wool of their progeny needs to be considered. Merino hoggets that produce an extra 0.14 kg clean wool that is 0.1 pm finer will compensate for some extra management and feeding of their dams during pregnancy to prevent weight loss. If these effects continue throughout the life of the animal, then it will increase the cost effectiveness of feeding to maintain maternal weight over pregnancy. more »

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