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Beyond the Bale : September 2014
ON FARM 35 The Australian wool clip, which is primarily Merino wool, is recognised worldwide for its high quality. However, to maintain this good reputation, it is important that Australian woolgrowers continue to be committed to quality assurance processes on their properties, for example through careful breeding, flock management and clip preparation. The downgrading of a woolgrower’s clip due to poor clip preparation could cost the woolgrower about 50c/kg, so it pays to be attentive about preventing contamination. Careful management of their own clip will not only reduce the possibility of a discount on the price they themselves receive, but will also help ensure that more general discounts are not incurred across the whole auction system. NON-WOOL CONTAMINANTS Hard contaminants can cause major machinery breakdowns. The most common hard contaminants found in pressed bales of wool are combs and cutters, screwdrivers, bale fasteners, bale hooks, small tools and drink cans. Hard contamination is the easiest type to detect and care must be taken to ensure they do not end up in the bale. The major soft non-wool contaminants include dog hair, clothing, towels, grease rags and vegetable matter. Any polypropylene products – baling twine, old wool packs and fertiliser bags – are a particular problem. When wool is processed, any non-wool fibres will break up into many single fibres that spread throughout the processing batch. These fibres can only be removed by hand picking in the fabric stage at great cost to the manufacturer. The entire wool batch being processed – up to 10,000 kg – can be affected by one small piece of baling twine. WOOL CONTAMINANTS Wool contaminants include urine/dung and other stains. Stain is discolouration that has combined with the structure of the wool fibre. It is permanent and cannot be removed by scouring. The intensity of the stain determines the dye colour needed to over-dye the stain and so reduces the value of the greasy wool. The risk of contamination from urine stain can be greatly reduced by crutching sheep, ideally within three months of shearing. Dark and medullated fibres in wool also affect processing performance and the quality of the final product. Only small amounts of dark and medullated fibres are needed to contaminate wool. Just one staple of dark wool in one bale of white wool is sufficient to prevent that wool being used for light-coloured cloth or yarn. Medullated fibres are hollow and do not take up dye, are very coarse and appear as white fibres in dyed garments. If woolgrowers have dark breeds or shedding breeds such as Damara and Dorper on their property, they must be kept completely separate from Merinos and be shorn after all the Merinos are shorn. KEEPING THE CLIP A T-shirt that was recently discovered in a bale of wool at a processing plant. TIPS TO ELIMINATE CONTAMINATION IN THE SHED • Store tools, clothing, towels, shearing gear and bale branding supplies away from wool handling areas. • Remove all poly products found. • Never use fertiliser bags as bulk class bale dividers. • Don’t use old (non-nylon) wool packs. • Keep the wool press area, wool room, shearing board and sheep pens clean. • Don’t let dogs camp in the wool areas. • Don’t eat in the wool handling areas. • Use rubbish bins. CLEAN Contamination can be a major issue for wool processors and can cost woolgrowers discounts if it is identified prior to the clip’s sale. Woolgrowers can help preserve Australia’s reputation for producing a quality clip by being vigilant about preventing contamination.