If you think it’s been hot for us humans, just imagine how a woolly sheep must feel when the thermometer is notching up to 34 degrees!
Luckily for the sheep, and anyone who uses wool, an annual shear gives them relief and a plentiful fabric that can be used in a whole host of products.
From carpeting and blankets, upholstery to clothing, sheep’s fleece, or wool, is used in crafts such as felting, crocheting and knitting, and also for products used in construction, like insulation in buildings – it has flame-resistant properties and it’s a sustainable material to use. Its fireproof qualities mean that it’s a great choice for use in protective clothing for firefighters, and other unusual uses include eco-food packaging (just like ours at Farm2Fork), mulch, slug pellets and garden string, and for acoustics, as it has fabulous sound-proofing qualities.
A sheep’s fleece grows continuously, so there’s no shortage of wool to go round.
Ollie sells our Farm2Fork organic sheep fleece to the British Wool Marketing Board (known as British Wool), which regulates the British market.
This is a farmer-led organisation which began in 1950 as a system to operate the UK fleece market. Its purpose is to achieve the best net return for producers, and it takes no profit.
It remains the only organisation in the world to collect, grade, sell, and promote fleece wool.
Each year, we bring in the professionals to shear our sheep so they look smart and feel cool during the summer months. It’s a tough, physically demanding and hot job, and the experts manage to get a clean cut where the fleece comes off in one piece. They can shear efficiently and have the strength and endurance to get through this tough work much quicker than we could do.
Sadly for farmers though, where the profits of wool once helped to build towns, it’s now a loss-leader. There’s no profit to be had in wool, and during covid, the price of fleece plummeted to the point where we didn’t get paid that year. Having said that, there’s a small premium for organic wool, so our product is doing as well as it can do in the current marketplace.
Shearing is important for the sheep’s health regardless of how much the wool is worth. It prevents problems such as flystrike, which is every sheep farmer’s worst nightmare.
We’ve dug out some interesting wool facts for you – it’s the material that keeps on giving!
- Humans have been using fleece since the Stone Age to make clothing
- The fastest time to shear a sheep was recorded at 37.9 seconds, by Ivan Scott from Letterkenny, in 2022.
- Wool can stretch up to 70% of its natural length only to ping back to its normal length when the tension is released.
- The drink Lamb’s Wool was a traditional wassail drink drunk on Twelfth Night which was made from apples, sugar, nutmeg and beer and dates back to the 17th century.
Wool – not just for jumpers!