LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kenrick Smith of Jeromesville, Ohio, won the fleece competitionat the 57th Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Harrisburg. Wool is judged on a combination of quality and yield. Each entry is the fleece from a single sheep. The heavier the fleece, the higher the sheep’s yield.
Other characteristics include length of a staple, or lock of wool, fiber size or quality, fiber strength, purity and character and color.
The preparation starts when the sheep is shorn of the last year’s fleece, usually in the early spring. Keeping the coat on longer than 12 months isn’t practical because the fibers start to break down.
Careful husbandry keeps the growing coats clean. That’s an important component of the judging. You have to be mindful of everything, said Don Hunter, a long-time contest judge, burrs and weeds, clean stalls, even the way you feed sheep is important.
He cautions shepherds to be mindful when feeding grain. The small kernels can easily fall deep into the fleece. Shepherds should keep hay low in a feeder, otherwise stems, leaves and seeds can also burrow into the fleece.
Nutrition plays a critical role in wool production. A trained eye can tell from the fleece when an animal was sick or malnourished. In those cases, fibers may be brittle, which is no help to creating high-quality wool products.
Too little feed and the wool is low-quality, too much feed and the sheep become overweight, a danger to their health and costly for the producer. Proper management helps make a good fleece, but genetics are the other major component.
At the show, fleeces are separated by color, fiber diameter, and by ram and ewe. Commercial wool buyers often prefer white wools that can easily be dyed, while others enjoy the variety of natural-colored wools that range from sunburnt tans and greys to dark browns and blacks.
The 2013 competition included 64 entries from 10 states.Class winners and champions of the wool competition are: Commercial Farm Flock Fleeces division: 64s, 70s, 80s (Fine) combing, John and Kate Bostek, Roclans Farm, Fairfield, Adams County.
Division champion 60s, 62s, (1/2 blood) combing: Kenrick Smith, Jeromesville, Ohio; division reserve champion 56s, 58s combing: Chad Lebo, Halifax, Dauphin County 50s, 54s (1/4 blood) combing: Christine Flanagan, Sheepberry Farms, Halifax, Dauphin County 46s, 48s (Low 1/4 blood) combing: Chad Lebo, Halifax, Dauphin County.
Purebred Farm Flock Fleeces division: Columbia and Corriedale, Roger and Nancy Bowman, Winterside Farm, Lenhartsville, Berks County. Merino Ewe: Kenrick Smith, Jeromesville, Ohio.Merino Ram: Kenrick Smith, Jeromesville, Ohio; division champion Montadale, Cheviot, & Dorset: Roger and Nancy Bowman, Winterside Farm, Lenhartsville, Berks County.
Hampshire, Suffolk, Oxford, Shropshire, Southdown: Rebecca Rishel, RJR Hampshires and Naturals, Seven Valleys, York County.Natural Colored Wool Fleeces division: Solid Black, Brown/Gray Fleece 60s and Finer: Terence Flannigan, Sheepberry Farms, Halifax, Dauphin County.Solid Black, Brown/Gray Fleece 58s and Coarser: Marian and Ralph Lovell, Lovell’s Maple Spring Farm, Linden, Lycoming County.
Division reserve champion Nonsolid Colored 60s and Finer: Christine Flanagan, Sheepberry Farms, Halifax, Dauphin Co. Nonsolid Colored 58s and Coarser: Chad Lebo, Halifax, Dauphin County.Division champion breeder exhibit of five fleeces: Kenrick Smith, Jeromesville.
Grand Champion Fleece: Merino Ram of Kenrick Smith, Jeromesville, reserve grand champion fleece: 64s, 70s, 80s (Fine) combing fleece of John and Kate Bostek, Roclans Farm, Fairfield, Adams County