Scottish Fine Wool Producers
(Fergus Wood, UK)
For too long British sheep farmers have seen little or no value in their wool cheque. There was a time when the wool cheque traditionally paid the farm rent--those days are long gone and wool sales contribute only some 3% to a farmer's income from his sheep.
However, an exciting Scottish initiative has now put high value wool grown in Scotland back in the market place with the introduction of new Scottish crossbred ewe, the Lomond Halfbred. This ewe fulfils the traditional role of the Mule and Scottish Halfbred, the production of prime lamb, and, in addition, also produces a high-value fleece worth up to £12 per annum.
For 6 years, the Scottish Fine Wool Project - now renamed Scottish Fine Wool Producers - experimented with a variety of Merino sires crossed on to Shetland and North Country Cheviot ewes. This initial work resulted in the development of the Lomond ram, which has both the fine wool bloodlines of the Australian Merino and the conformation and prolificacy of the Northern European Merino. By using the Lomond over Shetland or North Country Cheviot ewes - the two finest-woolled native breeds in Scotland- the resultant Lomond Haldbred ewe is produced. This ewe is then crossed with a suitable terminal sire to produce finished lambs.
The extra profit comes not only from the Lomond Halfbred's valuable fleece. The Halfbred wether lambs are shorn before slaughter (giving a fleece worth £5), the ewes are winter-shorn as hoggs and again before going to the ram (the combined value averaging £12) and the twin lambs from the Lomond Halfbred are also worth shearing before slaughter (bringing a further £8).
Scottish Fine Wool Producers currently have some 24 farmers members throughout Scotland. Members are provided with rams free of charge and a free wool diagnostic service, using the fibre laboratory at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen. An exclusive contract for the wool, which is sold through the British Wool Marketing Board, has been signed with two Scottish Textile manufacturers for five years, through the auspices of the British Wool Marketing Board, guaranteeing a premium price for the wool.
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