Ever wonder where the fleeces of sheep raised for meat go? Into the wool pool! Don’t imagine a pool of wool but rather bales of wool compressed into 400 lbs per bag! For Washington State the lovely home of the Paradise Family, Pendleton Woolen Mills buys the bulk of fiber collected for the wool pool.
How does a pool work? Smaller farmers collect together to be able to sell in a pool, it works like any basic co-op. Most meat sheep need to be sheared at least once a year, these fleeces are then bagged and saved for the pool, where they are then graded, weighed and packaged.
Grading is done by either government graders or by semi-local agricultural educators. The wool sold to the pool is generally stuffed in large garbage bags and either emptied before the pool or taken to the pool in bag. Once there the fleeces are either removed from bag or 3 random holes are poked into the bag so samples can be graded. The fiber is judged by length, diameter, crimp, cleanliness, color and strength.
Then they are weighed by grade, and the contributions of each farm is recorded. All graded and separated wool is then deposited so that a total weight of all grades is recorded.
Finally the wool is baled with 50-60 similar fleeces per bale, a packed wool bale can weigh over 400 pounds.
The bales are then loaded by fork lift semi-trucks and taken to the mill that bids the highest on the entire lot. Sold to mills, the pool manager then pays by the poundage that was submitted by each farm.
The average price paid for wool sold in 2012 was $1.53 per pound for a total value of 43.6 million dollars.