From Farm to Mill
A very brief outline of the stages wool goes through from farm to woollen mill is useful:
(1) The sheep are mustered by shepherds with dogs and brought to (2) the sheep yards where they are “drafted” (sorted out) and those needing it (3) “dagged”, i.e., the pieces of dried dung are clipped off the wool round the tail. (4) They are held overnight in the shearing or woolshed to keep them dry. They also sweat, which makes (5) the shearing easier next day. (6) The shorn sheep are counted out (shearers are paid by the hundred shorn) and (7) returned to their paddocks. (8) The shorn fleece is picked up and expertly thrown out flat on a slatted wool table, where it is (9) skirted to remove wool not matching the main portion of the fleece. The fleece is then (10) rolled into a compact bundle. On some, mainly large sheep stations, it is now (11) classed by a specialist wool classer who places fleeces of similar type together into (12) the bins, where they are held until required for (13) pressing into bales by a manually operated press. The bales are now (14) stencilled with the owner's brand, bale number, and description of wool and (15) dispatched to the wool broker, who (16) records, weighs, and (17) stacks them. Some or all may be sent to other parts of the store for (18) reclassing, (19) binning, or (20) interlotting. A proportionate number of bales from each line are (21) displayed with ends opened on the well-lighted show floor. Here they are (22) valued by wool buyers, who subsequently (23) bid for them at auction. The wool is (24) pushed back into the bales, which are resewn and (25) check weighed. (26) Shipping marks are stencilled on them and they are (27) “dumped”, i.e., compressed to a smaller volume and secured with steel wires ready for (28) shipping. Wool may also go to local mills for domestic use, or to wool-scouring plants for further processing before export.
The steps outlined are typical for most of the wool – but the farmer may choose to ship his wool, either greasy or after scouring, direct to London for sale, or sell privately to a buyer in New Zealand. Freezing works also export much slipe wool from skins – about 200,000 bales per annum.
by John Pinkerton Erskine Duncan, M.AGR.SC. (1911–65), Chief Advisory Officer (Wool), Department of Agriculture, Wellington.
- Sheep (2 vols.), Stevens, P. G. (1958–61)