|Wool Council: Wool Research and Texas Sheep Situation
By Lori Garcia-McGehee
American Wool Council Consultant
(March 1, 2012) Throughout the past decade, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) has been fortunate to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), Eastern Regional Research Center ERRC on a number of research projects. As a result of this research, products such as washable and flame-resistant wool have been developed. Research at the (ERRC) lab developed an environmentally friendly and economical wool-processing method to prevent shrinkage and biopolish wool.
ERRC continues its research and development on wool and recently, Jeanette Cardamone, Ph.D., lead scientist in wool and keratin from wool research, reported on recent research projects to the Wool Council at the convention. The most recent project involves extracting keratin from the wool. Keratin is a protein used in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products with the stated benefit of strengthening human hair and nails. In its purest form, wool is composed of 93-percent keratin.
Many value-added products can be produced from wool, including gels, powders, microfibers, brushes and sponges. This substance may also serve as a replacement for silicone in commercial formulations.
“The research is ongoing,” stated Cardamone. “We are working to find more ways to add value to wool and we currently have two patents for this; one is a process for bleaching, biopolishing and shrink-proofing wool, the other is for flame-retardant wool.”
Texas Sheep Situation Update
The council also heard firsthand accounts of the Texas sheep number depletion.
Due to the 2011 drought, the worst on record for several years; wild fires; and lack of forage, many Texan producers have had to sell their fine-wool sheep. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wool and Sheep Reporter Randy Hammerstrom reported that sheep were sold to Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, California and Nebraska and throughout the Midwest.
“Some estimates put the loss of sheep in Texas at up to 50 percent,” said Hammerstrom.
“My company sent 3,000 sheep to a producer in South Dakota,” says Benny Cox, president of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association. He went on to say that a great deal of cattle, not just sheep, have been sold to several states. “Lots of livestock have been sent to mostly northern and northwestern states where feed has been plentiful. Arkansas, California, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming and Wisconsin are states that I am sure have gotten Texas livestock.”
He went on to say, “I am not sure if the sheep will return to Texas. I just hope that we don’t have to send more away this year.”
The impact of the Texas sheep migration is not yet known. The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service released its sheep and lamb inventory report for the United States in late January to date, sheep inventory is down 2 percent over the previous year, totaling 5.35 million head.