Gerry Oliver - Cotswold X
Barb Mulock - Angora
It was another successful day in Carberry this past weekend at the Blue Hills Fibre Festival. There were lots of workshops, demonstrations and amazing vendors as well as a spinning circle. The wool show had 12 fleeces entered including an Angora fleece by Barb Mulock. Congrats to the winners and those who went home with a new fleece at the end of the day!
Thank you to the Canadian Wool Growers Co-operative for sponsoring the wool show and providing prize money!
When looking for a fleece at a wool show, it is important to read the judging card to get all the important information that will help in your decision. Most of the time, you are just looking at a fleece in its bag, rolled up with the nicest fleece showing, but what's actually inside? This is where the judging card comes in. Usually before the fleeces are on display, they have been opened up one at a time, examined thoroughly and all the comments are recorded on the card. This is a great source of information for both the producer, so they can see what to work on or what's great, and the buyer can see if this fleece will need more TLC then they are prepared for or if the fleece is even more beautiful then first thought. Let's delve into what a judging card is and what each section encompasses.
There are two basic styles of judging; Commercial and Artisan. The first style is more for wool shows where the fleeces will be purchased by commercial buyers (like Wool Growers) or a manufacturer. This method I find is quite harsh as there is more focus on fine, white and large fleeces. Rambouillet wool does great here but a Black Welsh fleece has none of those qualities. This way of judging is necessary in a commercial setting and does a good job at weeding out the fleeces that don't fit into a buyers schema. An Artisan judging is usually the style used at fibre festivals like Olds Fibre Week, the Manitoba Fibre Festival and Blue Hills Fibre Festival for example. There is no discrimination on handle, colour or size. Wool workers quite like coloured fleeces and sometimes a small fleece is just what you are looking for.
One reason Gerry and I work so well together because she is a wool producer and I am an artisan. Between the two of us we made our own judging card which works better for both producers and artisans and it is what we use at all the wool shows we co-ordinate. We allotted certain points depending on importance and combined criteria that was similar in nature. Our card is more streamlined (compared to other artisan style cards) and speeds up the judging process.
Presentation: We combined a few criteria from the Olds judging card to make this section. This is an informative criteria for both producers and artisans. This category lets you know as a buyer what condition the entire fleece is in. Pay close attention to deductions like skin flakes, second cuts, manure and stains as these issues cannot be washed out.
Lustre & Handle: If wool has lustre, it means it has shine. Long wools have amazing lustre whereas fine wools not so much and down wools – not at all. A judge must be fair to the specific breed characteristics. Handle is all about how the wool feels. Is it silky & soft or dry and lack life?
Staple Length & Evenness: Fine and medium wools are at least 2” in length and usually 3” – 5”. Long wools normally start around 6” and can be up to 12” long! This category will let you know if the fleece has the same staple length throughout and if the length is adequate for its breed.
Crimp Style: Fine wools have a very dense crimp, that’s what gives it, its elasticity. Long wools have a wide wavelength present and medium and down breeds sometimes don’t have a clearly defined crimp. Areas around the upper body will have a finer crimp style then the britch.
In all criteria there are deductions or problematic areas. This is good information for the wool producer because they can see which areas they need to work on to improve their fleeces. Deductions are also important for handspinners and fibre workers because it will help you determine how much work you will have to put into the fleece when processing it. As always, if you have any questions you can always ask Gerry or I. We love to talk about wool! If you are a producer and have never entered fleeces into a wool show you should give it a try, you may win ribbons and money! Wool is highly sought after by handspinners, felters and the like. Head on over to the fleece competitions page and find all the information you need. Hope to see you at one or more of the wonderful fibre festivals this year!
From the sheep producers to the yarn store, a lot goes into making a skein. We would like to promote a different aspect of the wool industry each month to help break down each step and through these processes, strengthen the connections between wool workers of all types. To start things off, Russell Eddy of Double E Shearing from Yorkton, Saskathewan discusses more about the trade.
What got you interested in shearing?: My dad, Chris Eddy learned to shear 30 years ago and was quite often on the road for weeks each spring during my childhood. When I was little I used to love to get dragged along to help and hear stories from his partner Michael Doogan. When I was 13 I started to learn and got up to shearing 27 sheep a day that year. Since my dad was getting older and always likes to talk about retirement I was happy to get those first few years in there with him, still my best coach in my opinion.
Explain the process of shearing and how long it takes to shear a sheep: Shearing is the art of removing the fleece of the animal in one piece without cutting the sheep or causing any other form of discomfort. I have had some sheep even take a nap while getting their yearly haircut! The techniques can vary but most people now use the Bowen style where one that sits the animal on its hip and starts on the stomach, from there the shear moves around the animal in such a way it is totally relaxed and easy to handle. As for time, it depends on the sheep, but usually, for me it takes 2 - 3 minutes but the world record is 17 seconds.
Below are two pictures showing to basic blows from the Bowen style.
Afterwards, the fleeces are skirted. We teach producers how to do this and often take a wool handler with us who helps with that at no extra charge to the producer.
What type of equipment do you use? What goes into a basic tool kit for a shearer? Shearers use a hand-piece (what you hold), cutters and combs (the blades), a solid or flexi dropper (drive shaft), and a motor. We also carry screwdrivers, lots of oil, gear wrenches, a first aid kit and an emergency kit for the animals in case of an accident (fortunately very rare and usually just a small scratch that needs a quick spray to stop infection). We also have a shoot (narrow hallway the animals line up in) and plywood that we shear on for the animals comfort and our traction.
Are certain breeds easier than others? Yes, some breeds are much easier depending on the amount of wool, the condition of the animal, the amount of wrinkles, the size and the animal’s health.
How far have you traveled? The farthest I have personally traveled was two years ago to Cornwall, Great Britain, where I learned from some of the best in the world and created memories to last a lifetime. Competing was a remarkable experience, to hear the judges and have that many people watch, it was truly amazing!
What has been your biggest challenge? Keeping in good enough health to keep up with the extreme pace and hard weeks of shearing. It's quiet easy to get run down and sick if you aren’t careful to look after yourself with a healthy diet and good sleeping habits.
What has been your best experience? I have to say the moments of pride in a job well done, knowing I’m helping the animals live happier and that I did my absolute best. As well as everyone’s favorite part; the true characters you meet. There is never a day where you don’t meet someone interesting on the road. After 5 years I’m still just as excited to hit the road as I was when I started!
Sheep have been in Canada since the days of early settlement, however conditions were much harsher than where they originated from. Lamb losses were heavy, so research was started to create a breed more suited to the western Canadian climate and landscape.
The first breed that was developed specifically for range conditions was the Romnelet. Work was carried out first by Richard Harvey (1865‐1950) at Stirling , AB and then picked up at the Range Experimental Station, Manyberries, AB in the 1920’s. Over 15 years, Rambouillet females were crossed with Romney Marsh rams to produce the Romnelet. Harvey’s dream was of a sheep that combined the hardiness, flocking and grazing habits of the Rambouillet, but with longer wool, characteristics possessed by several British sheep breeds. The breed received official status and was entered into the Canadian National Livestock Records in 1961. It is not known if any Romnelets can still be found in the west as a pure breed. The last ram registered was in 1977 and some sheep were still found at the Lethbridge Research Station as late as 1985.
The DLS was developed at Lennoxville, Quebec between 1965 and 1988. By using the Dorset, Leicester and Suffolk genetics, they produced a sheep that consistently breeds from June‐August without external manipulation and has excellent meat characteristics. They adapt well to accelerated lambing programs. As far as wool, it was of medium grade, but with great variation in the fibre and fleece.
Arcott – Rideau, Canadian and Outaouais:
The Arcott breed started development at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa in 1966. The initial breeds included Shropshire, Suffolk, North country Cheviot and Romnelet. Later Leicester, Southdown, Dorset were introduced to the breeding lineup, each contributing different characteristics which were to produce a good market animal. To increase prolificacy and milk production, Ile de France, Finnsheep and East Friesen were added to the mix.
Once the basic characteristics were established, the flocks were closed and the new breeds registered. Three were described: the Canadian Arcott, selected for lean muscle mass and growth rate; the Outaouais and Rideau breeds were selected on the basis of prolificacy of the dams, with lesser attention to individual lamb growth. The wool on all three breeds was a medium grade, weighing about 2.5 kg per fleece. The Rideau Arcott has become the most popular of the three breeds while small flocks of Canadian Arcott can be found around the country. The Outaouais has not proved popular with sheep producers.
~ Gerry Oliver
None of the 1,600 people who attended the third annual Manitoba Fibre Festival, October 2 and 3, could deny it was a terrific event and very successful. With more attractions, competitions and demonstrations, it was a total “fibre experience”.
New to the festival was the “Hall of Breeds”, a showcase of 12 different sheep breeds. Included in the group were both mainstream breeds as well as rare, not often seen breeds. There were Wensleydale, Romney and Cotswold, Suffolk, Texel, Shropshire, Clun Forest, Polypay, Ile de France, Targhee, Icelandic and Shetland sheep. An added attraction was two groups of alpacas. The two-month old babies were a big hit.
Sheep shearing is always a crowd pleaser and this event did not fail to be both entertaining and educational. Russell Eddy, a young shearer from Yorkton, SK was doing the hard work while his father Chris described the process to the crowd. The following day, Brian Greaves from Miniota, a shearing instructor in his own right, took over the microphone adding more information and detailed descriptions of whole process. The focus of the commentary was that shearing did not cause pain or frighten the sheep but was beneficial overall. Also, that shearing was a necessary part of the animals’ management to keep them comfortable in hot weather, clean of pests and the wool can also add to the overall income derived from the sheep.
The fleece competition turned into a national event, with 29 entries from as far east as Nova Scotia, and included Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Some very unusual fleeces were also shown including Tunis, Soay, Black Welsh Mountain, Lincoln, Icelandic and Wensleydale, and both white and coloured. Judge for the event was Susie Gourlay from Regina, SK.
~ Gerry Oliver
Wool Show Results:
Champion – Brian Greaves, Miniota MB – Targhee
2nd – Graham Rannie, Binscarth, MB – Rambouillet
3rd – Bernadette Doakes, Piapot, SK – Targhee
Medium Wool: White
Champion – Kaitlin Hamill, Wawanesa, MB – Rideau Arcott X
2nd – Elwood Quinn, Quebec – Horned Dorset x Shetland
3rd – Mark Comfort, Brockville, ON – Tunis
Medium Wool: Coloured
Champion- Bernadette Doakes, Piapot, SK – Black Welsh Mountain
Long Wool: White
Champion – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB – Wensleydale X lamb
2nd – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB – Wensleydale
3rd – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB – Wensleydale
Long Wool: Coloured
Champion – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB- Wensleydale X
2nd – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB- Wensleydale/Romney
3rd – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB- Romney
Supreme Champion: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB – Coloured Wensleydale X
Reserve Champion: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB - Coloured Romney
Spinners Choice: White Wool – Bernadette Doakes, Piapot, SK – Targhee X
Coloured Wool – Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB – Wensleydale X
Prize money for the fleece classes was donated by the Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers and the Spinners Choice prizes were donated by Susie Gourlay . Thank you to all who competed and congratulations to the winners.
*All photos taken by Pam Heath of Rare Breeds Canada
The All Canada Classic is an annual sheep show held in a different province each year. This year it was held in Winnipeg at the Red River Ex. There were producers from across the country showing their sheep and buying and selling in the auctions.
There was lots to see an do including a banquet and trade show. We were there for the wool.
We had 19 entries to the show and organized each fleece into 1 of 6 classes. Fleeces were judged using a commercial judging card which is quite a different style from the artisan judging. This method is used for commercial buyers and they mainly like, white, fine and clean. Fleeces score higher based on clean yield and weight. It is a harsher way to judge but the Canada Classic was the right place for this style of judging.
Here is a copy of the judging card we used.
It was a great opportunity for those interested in purchasing fleeces because of a few factors; variation of breeds, some rare breeds and some very clean fleeces. If you came to the auction and bought a fleece, you likely did very well.
Fine Wool White Class
1st: Graham Rannie, Binscarth, MB with a Rambouillet Fleece
2nd: Graham Rannie, Binscarth, MB with a Rambouillet Fleece
3rd: Wilson Colony, Coaldale, AB with a Rambouilllet Fleece
Medium/Down Wool White Class
1st: Sheri Bieganski, Carberry, MB with a Dorset Fleece
2nd: Sheri Bieganski, Carberry, MB with a Dorset Fleece
3rd: Janice Johnstone, Binscarth, MB with a Border Cheviot Fleece
Medium/Down Colored Wool Class
1st: Bernadette Dowkes, Maple Creek, SK with a Black Welsh Mountain Fleece
Long Wool White Class
1st: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Romney/Texel cross Fleece
2nd: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Romney/Texel cross Fleece
3rd: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Wensleydale Fleece(which is a Rare Breed in Canada)
Long Wool Colored Class
1st: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Romney Fleece
2nd: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Romney/Wensleydale cross Fleece
3rd: Gerry Oliver, Carberry, MB with a Wensleydale Fleece
Champion Fleece White Wool: Graham Rannie
Champion Fleece Long Wool: Gerry Oliver
Champion Fleece Specialty Wool: Margaret Brook
Supreme Champion Fleece: Graham Rannie
Graham won Supreme Champion because his fleece was exceptionally clean, very typical of the breed, very fine and pure white. Exactly what a commercial buyer looks for.
If you missed out on this show, many of these producers will also have fleeces in the wool show at the Manitoba Fibre Festival on Oct 2nd & 3rd 2015. Check out our home page for more information.
All Things Wool was also on scene at the Olds Fibre Week Wool Show and auction the week before. Watch for the next blog post for all the updates on that one of a kind show!
Judge: Susie Gourlay
Wool show results
GRAND CHAMPION - WHITE - Gerry Oliver - Wensleydale
RESERVE CHAMPION - WHITE - Gerry Oliver - Cotswold
GRAND CHAMPION - COLOURED - Linda Wendelboe - Shetland
RESERVE CHAMPION - COLOURED - Gerry Oliver - Wensleydale
SPINNER’S CHOICE - WHITE - Sharon Kirschbaum - Cormo
SPINNER’S CHOICE - COLOURED - Gerry Oliver - Wensleydale
1st Linda Toews –lilac Jacob
2nd Lena Toews–black Jacob
3rd Linda Toews –black Jacob
Blue Hills Fibre Festival was a great success this past weekend. Lots of woolly goodness and people who love it. There were 13 entries in the fleece competition and it included Shetland, Wensleydale, Cotswold, Dorset and crosses among these breeds.
And here are the first place winners! From top left: Shetland/Texel, Wensleydale, Polypay/Romney (bottom left) and the coloured Cotswold won Reserve Champion. The Wensleydale on the top right won Grand Champion with a score of 97%! Every fleece was exceptionally prepared and the wool was high quality.
This is the coloured Cotswold that was one of the popular fleeces in the auction. You will be able to see more quality wool at Fibre Week (Olds, AB) and the Canada Classic (Winnipeg, MB) this month. If you are heading to any of those events you will want to stop by the Fleece Shows and see what kind of wool there is offered. Hope to see you there!
There was lots to do at the festival, from workshops and classes to a spinning circle and of course shopping!
The Manitoba Fibre Festival is held annually to showcase the best in natural fibres both in Manitoba and beyond. It consists of workshops, vendors and a fleece competition. In 2015, it will be held in Winnipeg at the Red River Exhibition Grounds on October 2 and 3.
With the upcoming festival, there is an opportunity to showcase wool, and all that it encompasses…. from high fashion to insulation. It is also time to show off rare breed wool in Canada.
Rare breed animals at one time were main stream. Their wool was developed for specific purposes…such as tough outer wear or carpeting; worsted suits or soft, fashionable clothing. Only since the development of synthetic fibres, have many of these breeds fallen out of favour. And yet, as times change, such as the recent rise in popularity of natural fibres, people’s interest is once again focusing on wool.
HRH Prince Charles has launched “The Campaign for Wool”, a world-wide initiative to promote wool in all its uses. Activities and events to celebrate “wool” have been held in England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, USA and most recently…Canada. (www.campaignforwool.org)
In conjunction with “The Campaign for Wool”, the fleece show at the Festival will showcase our rare breed sheep and their wool. By introducing as many rare breed sheep to this large audience, we hope to foster a renewed interest.
Breeders of rare breed sheep are invited to contribute fleeces and animals to the wool competition and display for the duration of the show. You can watch how the planning is progressing on www.all-things-wool.ca or www.manitobafibrefestival.com. We are on Facebook as well. Watch for regular updates on these sites.
For more information on the wool show and competition, contact Gerry Oliver – (204) 834-2261 or email@example.com
So, you have decided you want to enter some of your fleeces in a wool competition, but are unsure which ones to select and what the judge will be looking for. Some fleeces look stunning on shearing day, but on closer inspection faults become evident. Well, better to find them at home than the judge picking them out at the competition.
Let’s examine what we need to be looking for at home, when deciding which fleeces to enter.
Soundness is really important. Strength is one of wool’s key characteristics. How strong is the actual fibre? Grip a small lock of wool at both ends and pull. If the fibres don’t break, the wool is sound. If you hold the wool up beside your ear when pulling, there may be a crackling sound but the fibre doesn’t break. This is “tenderness” in the fibre, which could make the fleece less sound. Many things can cause unsoundness in the wool, but usually it some kind of stress on the animal sometime during the year. This could be lambing, illness or changes in feed. A fleece that is unsound can be processed, but is not suitable for competition.
Next, is the cleanliness of the fleece. This is probably the biggest issue we have with wool. In colder climates, we feed our sheep for six months a year and the other half they are on pasture. Vegetable matter or chaff gets into the fleece, significantly degrading its value. There are various ways of feeding the animals that reduces a buildup of vegetable matter, or one can cover the animals with coats. The presence of burrs, dags (pieces of manure) and stains from urine or manure will reduce the fleece’s value. Much of this can be removed when the fleece is skirted.
“Handle” refers to the feel of the wool. A good fleece will have great resilience and softness, fineness, length and is pleasing to touch. This is based on breed specific characteristics.
Staple length is very important especially for wool destined for the commercial markets where the wool is processed using machinery. Uneven fibres can result in waste or the need for different machines. Samples of wool gathered from across the fleece are measured for evenness of length. For most shows, a minimum of two inches staple length is required to enter a fleece.
Crimp refers to the natural waviness of the wool fibre. This is a breed specific characteristic. Fine wool breeds have more crimps per inch than the down (medium) or longwool breeds. Crimp should be obvious the full length of the fibre.
Uniformity across the entire fleece is important. Judges will select samples from at least three different areas of a fleece for each judging category. For this reason, skirting the fleece to remove kemp or hairy areas from the hind legs, any black hairs on a white fleece, marker paint, stains and belly wool is important to present the best fleece.
Finally, all fleeces are weighed. The fleece must fall within the breed characteristic for fleece weights.
Most judges will also give their general impressions of each fleece, which are recorded on the judging card. These comments are very helpful in preparing fleeces for subsequent competitions or for sale.
Selection of fleeces for competition can be challenging but competing with your fleeces can also bring you much higher returns for your wool than you ever expected. There are niche markets for all kinds of wool and breeds of sheep, so it is worth the effort to explore where the demand may be and possibly a different way to market your wool.
The next article will discuss the process of skirting a fleece for competition.
~ Gerry Oliver