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Wool handling – best practice, hints & tips

Wool handling – best practice, hints & tips

This month, British Wool Farm talks to Jayne Harkness-Bones, who works at British Wool’s depot in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Jayne was born into the farming industry and is a seventh generation farmer on her family’s farm.  She’s also been a member of the Northern Ireland competitive shearing team, so knows a thing or two about wool handling!

Why is good wool handling important?

Correct presentation of your wool at shearing time is vital to maximise as much return as possible for your clip.  If you don’t look after it, your return won’t be as profitable.

What’s the most important thing to remember when handling wool?

Always be aware of your surroundings, and take multi-tasking to the next level! When wool is being shorn there’s lots to think about in a short space of time – where the shearer is within the process, the actual hands-on rolling of the wool, and being alert to sheep escaping. Mastering a repetitive routine is important, but you have to be competent in adjusting and adapting to unpredictable factors.

What do you enjoy about wool handling?

I’ve enjoyed helping with the wool since I was a wee nip! Shearing was always a busy time as my dad was a shearing contractor, and when our sheep were being clipped I was always about to help out. I just love everything about wool really, especially the fact that sheep spend a year growing such a wonderful and versatile fibre.

How did you start competitive shearing and wool handling?

I first got into competitive wool handling in 2003 when I qualified for the Northern Ireland Team and took part in my first world championships - The Golden Shears held at the Royal Highland Show. Since then, I’ve travelled the world competing at world championships including Australia & New Zealand.

The team element is really something else. Everyone takes their role very seriously and gives 110%, and we all get on well - most of the time!  We have the best of craic, whilst being really competitive at the same time.

Any expert tips for on farm wool handling?

Make sure your wool is dagged and rolled up neatly, keeping blacks completely separate. Any black fibres will contaminate your good white wool, so it definitely pays to be really careful here. Also, get your clip into the depot as soon as you can after shearing - don’t store it. If your wool gets damaged or wet, this will dramatically reduce your clip value.

When you’re sending your wool in to the depot, make sure you pack sheets as full as you can, as this will mean your haulage costs less. And it’s always worth having a yarn with your neighbours – if you can club together on transport, you’ll lower your costs.

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Wool handling – best practice, hints & tips