THE TIME TO SHEAR SHEEP in the north ern states is April or May. The earlier the sheep can he sheared in the season, without causing discomfort from cold to the sheep, the greater the weight of fleece is likely to be and the better the quality of the wool.
Washing sheep Some years ago, sheep were generally washed before shearing. This practice has almost en tirely gone out of vogue. The washing in creeks or otherwise is entirely inef one by one into the stream. When a sheep is thoroughly soaked, the fleece 's shaken and squeezed so that the dirt is washed away. The head of the sheep should, of course, be held above water, and after they are washed they should be turned on a clean, grassy lot to dry. Oftentimes the fleece is so heavy with water that the sheep will need assistance in getting on their feet. Ewes in lamb must be handled with especial care, though in most flocks the washing will not take place until June, when the lambing season should be over.
Clean wool Great care must be taken in the winter feeding of sheep and hous ing to prevent the wool from becoming filled with chaff, burs, etc. The wool is valued always on the basis of its scoured weight, and the buyer always allows for whatever dirt may be present in it. The wool of sheep that have ac cess to a straw stack in winter is likely to be filled with chaff and will not bring Tying woolSheep should be sheared on a clean floor or bench, free from dust, chaff or other litter in order that the fleece may be kept perfectly clean. If the wool is put in sacks or bales, no tying is required. Otherwise, the sides of the fleeces should be turned in and the fleece rolled together inside out and tied with a light, strong string, using as little as possible to securely hold the fleece together. The use of common, heavy, large sized sheep twine is espe within 2 to 5 cents a pound as much as it would if the wool was free from chaff. Likewise wool which is full of sand or burs is docked by the buyer. The dock age is not so much on account of the weight of the burs and chaff itself, as of the difficulty in separating these sub stances from the fleece. This is usually a very tedious and expensive process and cannot be done without more or less in jury to the wool fiber. Racks should be provided for sheep, at which they may eat without getting their necks full of chaff, seeds and dust.
cially objectionable, not so much be cause it increases the weight of the fleece 2 or 3 ounces, but because the fiber becomes mixed with the wool and must be combed out before the wool can be used for manufacturing. Mumford found that the lower price of Michigan wools as compared with Pennsylvania and Ohio wools was largely due to the old square method of doing up the fleece and the use of heavy, coarse sheep twine in tying it.
The best twine to use is about No. 18 hemp or small linen. If the box is used to do up the fleece, it should be a little longer than usual and smaller and much less twine used.
The tags should be trimmed off the fleece and sold separately. They should never be done up in the fleece. When sheep die of natural causes, the wool may be pulled off and sold. This pulled wool is not as valuable as sheared live wool, as it will not take dye as well and should aliVays be sold separately as pulled wool. Likewise the pelt of a dead sheep is much less valuable than from one that has been killed.
Paint marks on the wool represent so much loss to the manufacturer and con sequently lower the price for the wool.
Classification of woolThe grower will seldom be in a position to sort his wool in such a manner that it would be any benefit to the manufacturer. It should, however, be graded uniformly as regards fleeces of different breeds, put ting those together of the same breed and character. Beyond this the grower will seldom be able to go. Wool is clas sified in several different ways and in order that the grower may interpret the market prices of these different grades, a brief account will be given of them.
In a broad way. wool is classified as Domestic, Territory and Carpet or Blanket wool. By Domestic wool is un derstood the kind of wool generally ob tained from sheep grown under general farm conditions. It should be bright, free from sand, dirt, burs, etc. Should it contain these materials, it would fall into the Territory class.
The Territory wools are so called be cause they are produced most abundantly in the territories and are generally discolored and dirty with sand, burs, seed, etc. Where, however, range wool is clean, it falls into the Domestic class.
The Carpet or Blanket wool is com posed of wools containing a large amount of hairy fiber and kemp. By kemp is meant the coarse white hairs which are found mixed with the wool in greater or less quantity. Kemp is usu ally prominent in the face, the forearm and the inside of the flank. Whenever kemp is found in these latter places, it is likely to be more or less abundant throughout the whole breed. This kemp or hair does not take dye readily and on this account injures the fleece for manufacturing, except for the coarser grades of goods like carpets and blank ets. In breeding sheep for wool, those which exhibit kemp should be fattened for market.
The Domestic and Territory wool may be divided into three classes, desig nated as clothing or .carding wool, De laine and combing wool. This classifi cation is based entirely on the length, quality and strength of the wool. And each one of these classes may be graded as fine, medium or coarse.
Generally speaking, clothing wools are short wools of relatively fine quality and less than inches in length. The Delaine wools are also fine wools clipped from all varieties of Merinos, which grow a long, strong wool staple, 21/2 to 3 inches in length, while combing wools are those over 3 inches in length which are sound. Nearly all of the coarser long wools are graded as combing wools. However, a wool which may be long enough for combing, if it be unsound, is classed as clothing or carding wool. These three different classes of wool are subdivided according to quality or size of fiber as follows: In this classification the Picklock is the highest grade of clothing wool; it is now rarely found on the market since usually only the wool from pure Saxony Merinos grade Picklock. The XXX is next highest in grade and is also scarce. It is sometimes found when Saxony Me rinos are crossed with the common American or Spanish Merinos. The XX grade is a little lower than XXX and is the standard grade usually produced by the pure bred Merino. The three fourths blood Merino, all high grade Merinos, and the coarser pure blood Merino wools grade as X.
"The terms one-half, three-eighths and one-fourth blood do not necessarily mean that the wools were grown on sheep possessing just that fraction of Merino blood. Many sheep containing no Merino blood grow wool grading three-eighths and one-fourth blood. Number 1 or one-half blood is the next coarser grade than X. Number 2 is coarser than Number 1. and so on." "Coarse and grade wool are invariably combing wools and are the grades most frequently produced by Lincoins, Leices ters and Cotswolds, which have fleeces coarse and long in staple but bright and lustrous. Fine Delaine wool is Merino wool fine enough to grade X. or above, and long in staple.
"Medium Delaine is the grade next coarser than the above, while Low De laine is long enough to he combing but a grade finer than the finest combing wool, namely, three eighths In addition to these grades of wool noted above, other grades blown as felt ing wools and Noils are occasionally quoted. The felting wools usually pos sess a short staple and are adapted to felting purposes, because they felt quickly. In felting "the fibers are in terlocked in such a way that a solid fabric is produced without the interme diate process of spinning and weaving." Roils refers to the dead and tender wools which are broken off in the proc ess of combing wool fibers between fine needlesThey may also he called comb ing waste. "The long and healthy fibers are carried along through the combing process and formed into what are called Worsted Tops." The long staple wool usually includes the Lincoln, the Leicester. Cotswold, Romney Marsh and Blackface or High land. The short staple includes the Southdown. Hampshire. Suffolk, Shrop shire. Cheviot and Welsh. The Delaine. of course. comes from the De laine and Improved Merinos.
Prof. H. W. Mumford. whose classi fication of wools has been followed above, secured typical ewe fleeces from a large number of sheep breeders. The fleeces were believed to be representative of the various breeds. The following table shows the weight of these fleeces, the percentage of shrink in washing, their commercial grade and the price per pound.
The table shows the percentage shrink in scouring different wools to vary from 27.4 per cent in the case of Cheviot sheep to 72.4 per cent in Merinos. The Lincoln produces the most valuable fleece, followed by the both bleeds yielding combing wools.