|Wool Mill Tour for Shearing Crew Managers
By RON COLE
ASI Wool Consultant
(February 1, 2010) Ten shearing crew managers, whose crews harvest and package hundreds of thousands of pounds of U.S. wool each year, participated in an American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)-sponsored tour of Chargeurs and Burlington Industries wool processing facilities in December.
“This opportunity was welcomed by shearers,” says Ron Cole, ASI wool education consultant. “Nearly all have wanted to visit processing centers, but never had the opportunity previously.”
They saw firsthand the production of wool top at Chargeurs, managed by Diego Paullier, in Jamestown, S.C., the only major facility of its kind in the United States. They then followed the wool top as it became processed into yarn or fabric at two Burlington Industries facilities in North Carolina, which was coordinated
by Tim Almond. Also included in the tour was a visit through a synthetic fiber processing facility, so that participants could observe the differences between the two types of fibers in the fabric industry. Each day, the shearers were able to interact with plant operation managers to more fully understand the challenges of processing natural fibers in today’s business climate. Rick Powers, Lempriere USA, also discussed issues he faces in exporting U.S. wool throughout the world, that are directly related to the shearing industry.
“Shearers are an integral part of the U.S. wool industry and have a major effect on wool quality, from the grower, to all processing levels,” explains Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ASI wool marketing director, about the reason behind the tour.
Starting three years ago, the shearing industry and ASI became more ‘interlinked’ in order to maintain the highest level of wool quality programs possible. As part of the ongoing ASI wool quality improvement programs, certification for shearers was important in improving the U.S. wool clip. ASI provides educational materials, educational seminars, wool handling schools, financial support for shearing schools and contests and shearing crew site visits in order to provide the shearing industry with the skills necessary to improve overall quality of U.S. wools.
According to Cole, “Shearers are the direct link to the growers in wool preparation. It is crucial that the crew managers are knowledgeable about how U.S. wool is processed and exported in order to maintain the highest quality possible.”
A flow of information from wool processors, buyers, warehouses, shearers and growers is necessary to keep the U.S. wool clip up to international standards. Each segment of the marketing chain is highly dependent on the next in order to make quality improvements. In 2008, 60 percent of the wool clip was exported, primarily to China and India for processing. In order to maintain those markets and market price levels, processors expected high quality and repeatability when processing U.S. wools.
The following shearing crew managers participated in this tour: Kevin Hickman, Mo.; Bernie Fairchild, Idaho; Cliff Hoopes, Wyo.; Matt Johnson, Wyo.; Roland Montemayer, Calif.; Juan Garza, Calif.; Candido Pena, Calif.; and Wade Kopren, S.D. Cole and Bob Padula, ASI wool quality consultant, provided trip planning, programs and discussion following each plant visit.
Participants said they enjoyed seeing this phase of the wool industry, in fact, Fairchild commented, “I thought we shearers provided the majority of the work in harvesting the wool. However, after viewing first hand the many, many steps in wool processing, I have a different appreciation for the processing companies and their role in our industry.”
Hoopes said, “Contamination that we take for granted, such as hay chaff in the neck area, has major consequences in wool processing. It requires numerous steps and inspections to remove this from the top, yarn and fabric. For example, we saw that it took 28 different processes to convert wool top into fabric. I would highly recommend this tour to all shearers. If I don’t shear and package the wools correctly, it not only impacts the producer’s price, but ultimately it affects the way the wool is processed.”
“This tour was very educational. However, we need financial incentives for those who produce wool that is sheared and packaged correctly using the Code of Practice Guidelines,” said Pena. “All shearers need to be better informed about wool quality and handling at shearing time which would result in higher prices to our producers and help them stay in business.”
Kopren, who enjoyed seeing how the military uniforms were made from U.S. wool, summed up his experienced at the tour by saying, “I did not realize the complexity of processing natural fibers into finished fabric. The number of steps that it takes to accomplish this is truly astounding. I saw how any type of contamination in the wool affects each step in the processing system. The weaving process was especially interesting – from a single strand of wool twisted to join other strands resulting in thousands of interwoven fibers to make completed fabric.”