Bank holiday Monday on the farm in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England.

Bank holiday Monday on the farm in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England.

What a nice way to end the summer with a visit to see how the farm were getting on this season, we are privileged to have direct access to a farm in Clitheroe, Lancashire where we collect wool from the local area under our DB Wools direct buying business.

We drove out to the top of the farm and shown the expanse of rolling hills that the sheep and cattle graze on, the farm have chosen their breed of cattle carefully (Belted Galloway), a native breed which eat molinia grass. This encourages the growth of heather, which in late summer creates a beautiful purple landscape across the moorland.

The area has been very fortunate this year with rainfall, meaning the ground was lush with pasture and no additional feed was required which helped reduce cost and environmental footprint.

They have been carrying on some tups the last few seasons which although required time and effort, saved them some money at the local market for breeding rams, they were satisfied with the results.

Wool had been coming in at similar rates to last season which is a good sign, with access in the group to our own wool scouring washing facility and selling directly to vertical carpet producers for the contract carpet sector, where carpets are enjoyed by Hotels, Casinos, Cruise ships and public spaces, we are always in the market with a fair price and prompt payment.

Wool market for strong wool is still low unfortunately looking over the last 10 year period, excess supply entering the unforeseen pandemic and also the pandemic putting a holt to new carpet contracts became a perfect storm for wool price drops, and there is a lack of Chinese demand for finer bred wool, since the reopening of the UK we have seen good demand for the residential carpet sector with many people spending money on the home rather than holidays, hence the reason for wool prices to be marginally better than pandemic levels, looking forward we do not expect much hope for prices to rise at the farm gate, we anticipate a reduction because demand for wool products will be hit by high global energy pricing and other inflationary costs throughout the price chain, before the wool reaches the end user, it has to be washed, spun, dyed and manufactured into Carpet, so there are several energy price increases to contend with.

We hope to touch base back at the farm in the new year.

Certified for Responsible Wool Standard – Chile

Congratulations to Standard Wool Chile who last month joined Standard Wool UK and NZ by becoming certified for Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) covering Trading, Warehousing and Distribution of Greasy Wool.

Standard Wool Chile is the wool buying division of Standard Wool Group for Chilean Wool, located in Punta Arenas Chile, South America. We buy approximately 60% of the wool sold each year in Chile with decades of experience in collecting and valuing Chilean Wool, we visit the farms during shearing time to ensure the wool is graded to the correct standards, ensuring our clients who buy Punta Wool Tops or Greasy Chilean Wool receive the right quality.

Adding RWS certification means we can ultimately pass on more value to the farmer, we can handle their RWS wool in order to meet the growing demand for RWS wool around the world.

RWS is a voluntary standard that address the welfare of sheep and also looks into the management of the land the animals graze on. This ultimately provides the industry with the tools to recognize the best faming practices and ensures that wool under the RWS label comes from farms that have a progressive approach to managing their land, respect for the welfare of their animals and the five freedoms of animal welfare, this is backed by the strong requirements of certification which is fast becoming an industry gold standard.

More about RWS click here: Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) – Textile Exchange

If you have any enquiries for Wool Tops or Greasy wool please contact us on (Paul) pshughes@standardwool.co.uk or (Dean) dsugden@standardwool.co.uk

If you have any demand for other RWS wool within our group of companies, please contact (Pete) on phandley@standardwool.co.uk

The Queen – Thursday 8th September 2022

Standard Wool and its group of companies takes this moment to acknowledge the passing of The Queen. Our thoughts are with the Royal Family and those who have been affected by the news.

Our Lady Sovereign commanded our respect, showed great courage and humility, devoting her life, serving the Country and Commonwealth for 70 years.

The Royal Family have been close to our hearts during the company’s history, HRH Princess Anne opened our wool scours in Thomas Chadwick’s, Dewsbury in 1991, and also reopened our combing operation in Chile, South America in 2007, as well, working in cooperation with the Campaign for Wool with His Majesty

New Year, New Brand, New Website.

It’s finally here,
after 14 years of living with the windows 98 edition of our website, we would proudly like to unveil our brand spanking new home. To accompany this launch we present to you in glorious 4k a cinematographic marvel which we feel sums up our company.

Please watch our short film to learn, from start to finish, the process, the service that Standard wool has offered for so many years.

Thank you, enjoy.

About Peter

My name is Peter Handley, I am a Wool Trader at Standard Wool UK Ltd.

I am a farmer’s son, and was brought up on our family farm, which is situated on the moorlands in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire. Our 2,500 acre farm runs around 900 ewes, Swaledale, LLeyn and their crosses, mainly producing store lambs.

When I was 16 I attended the British Wool Marketing Board shearer training course which was held on our farm. We have held these courses on our farm for the past 10 years and it has trained many shearers, from people with only a few sheep that just want to be able to shear their own safely and properly, to professional shearers looking to turn shearing into a full time job, shearing in the UK for 3-4 months, then travelling to New Zealand and Australia in our winter. I attended these courses for a few years before I was awarded the Gold Seal Certificate.

I left school at 16, working on the farm, sheep shearing in the summer for local farms before doing a stint harvesting timber. At 19 I decided to travel to New Zealand for 6 months, where I attended a TECTRA shearing course, sheared sheep, worked on farms and by chance ended up working for a wool buyer/exporter.

After stints working at a wool scour, buying wool directly from farmers in Ireland and wool sorting, I finally ended up here at Standard Wool, buying wool from around the world, scouring the wool and selling it to mills.

I’m very lucky in having the opportunity to see this industry from both sides, and understand the problems faced by farmers to carpet sellers.

How come wool prices hardly cover the cost of shearing?

Wool prices in the UK will only just cover the cost of shearing, and that’s on bred/crossbred wools. Us poor Swale farmers have no chance! (I’ve seen people trying to burn Swaledale fleeces in the past, it doesn’t burn so easily…) For example, shearers will charge around £ 1.20 per sheep to shear, crossbred fleece will be around 2.5kgs at £ 1.00/kg. I remember my Grandad saying the wool cheque would pay the rent of the farm for the year, those days look well and truly gone!

Even though wool is a superior fibre to man-made Nylons and Polymers, it still has to be comparative in price. The sad thing is that technology and quality in the man-made fibres is improving. The majority of UK wool is used for making carpet, as it is mainly too coarse for knitwear. Wool still has a reputation for being naturally hard wearing, and has flame retardant properties, so is still used for Hotels, Cruise liners, Aeroplanes etc. But the common household tends to go for the cheapest option as people don’t need a carpet that will last 20 years.

Why does New Zealand and Australian Wool command a higher price?

The majority of Australian wool is Merino, Merino Crossbred or Corriedale. These are much finer than UK breeds, being used for suit making and fine knitwear. As the diameter of each fibre is finer, it is able to produce a finer yarn, and also is much softer to the touch so it doesn’t itch like the jumpers my gran used to knit.

New Zealand Wool is more like UK wool. The main base breed is a Romney, sometimes crossed with other breeds, Drysdale, Perendale, Corriedale. With only a few breeds, the wool quality does not differ as much as it does in the UK, for example even a Welsh mule has totally different wool to a Scottish Mule. New Zealand farmers over the years have managed to make their wool practically free of kemp (under hair most commonly found in hill breeds) and also black fibre. – In the last few years they have introduced Suffolk + Southdown breeds to improve lamb quality, but these are usually shorn and kept separate. This is a benefit for a mill, as the kemps do not take colour dye, so stand out in the yarn as does the black fibre.

Both countries farms also have the economies of scale, and this is the same story as per the meat exports.

What is being done to improve prices back to the farmer?

UK wool still commands a higher price in the market place compared to many other Crossbred producing countries. It is renowned for its durability, resilience, strength and bulk.

There are many initiatives been set up to try and educate people on the qualities wool naturally possesses, for example the Campaign For Wool set up by Prince Charles has done a lot to promote woollen products across the globe. It is about educating the general public the qualities wool has over Man-made fibres, the main one for me is always the fact it grows back every 12 months!

How can farmers improve their wool clip and secure the best return possible?

A few things I’ve seen on farm, and also feedback from the mills.

If the sheep are wet, don’t shear them! – I know it sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many sheep are shorn damp. If the wool is damp the fibre goes weak and the wool stains yellow. This causes breakages in the yarn, and also affects the yield of the wool through the carding.

If housing sheep, don’t house on fresh straw. – Straw and hay is a spinning mills worst nightmare, it intertwines with the wool fibre and goes right through the carding and spinning into the finished yarn. Sawdust is much better, as we can wash it out of the wool during the scouring.

Use marking paint conservatively – Although most maker paint does come out in the scouring process, it is still very difficult to fully remove, I’ve seen instances where mills have produced an undyed yarn, and the paint has come right through into the yarn.

No baling twine/net wrap – I have been to a couple of mills who have found a foreign bright orange fibre in their finished yarn… The same as with straw and hay, it breaks up and intertwines with the wool.

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