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Classer is a tool that can be used by wool producers to determine the value of using fibre diameter measurements to separate wool clips based on their fibre diameter.
Within a group of sheep treated similarly, there are individual fleeces ranging in fibre diameter. Typically, the fibre diameter range is about 8um. This means that in a wether flock with an average fibre diameter of 21um, you would expect sheep to have fibre diameters ranging from 17um to 25um. The individual variation can be greater in a ewe flock which has lambed, with no separation of dry & pregnant ewes. In this case, the range can be as high as 12um between the finest and the strongest sheep.
However, within a 21um wether flock, 2/3 of all sheep will have a fibre diameter in the range of 19.4 and 22.6. About 1/6 of all sheep will therefore be below 19.4um and 1/6 will be above 22.6um.
Individually testing all sheep, and separating the wool into fibre diameter lines can be profitable in some situations, but not always.
There are a few golden rules for understanding when this can work profitably in the wool industry.
- The wool price for finer lines is disproportionally higher than the wool price for stronger micron lines.
- Wool prices are generally high.
- The benefit gained per sheep outweighs the cost of testing.
Classer provides you with the opportunity to determine whether or not it is profitable to test all your sheep and use this information for clip preparation. By using Classer, you can use your own, updated data to determine the value of fleece testing for your situation.
(note you will need a version of Excel 97 or higher to use this program.)
(This is a manual which outlines the value of testing individual sheep for both wool classing and sheep classing)
For commercial wool producers, you can test all your sheep for fibre diameter. The benefits of this testing depend on a number of factors. These include:
- Your weaning percentage (that is how many sheep you can cull).
- The value of your wool clip being 1um finer.
- The age until which you keep your wethers.
- The cost of testing.
- The wool production of the sheep in your flock.
As a result of fleece testing all ewes in a mob and using those tests for selection, you get benefits from two sources:
- The repeated value of having a mob of ewes that are lower in fibre diameter (phenotypic benefit).
- The value of having offspring that are finer than if you had not tested (genetic benefit).
Using a paper written by Prof Abbott of Charles Sturt University, a spreadsheet model was developed by the Mackinnon Project to determine the value of testing individual sheep for improved wool production of themselves and their progeny.