Prager reports positives for Wyo wool during recent update for WWGA members
Casper – When looking at the current trends and wool prices for 2017, Center of the Nation Wool General Manager Larry Prager noted it’s been a good year for Wyoming wool producers so far, commenting, “We had great bales overall this year.”
Prager gave an update on the state of the 2017 wool market during the Wyoming Wool Growers Association Summer Membership Meeting, which was held July 24-25.
Overall, Prager stated Wyoming enjoyed a good shearing season and generally cooperative weather throughout the spring.
“Early on, we had folks shearing sheep that were flat wet. We haven’t done that very often, but we had three or four people who put the wool in the bale, and it was kind of in trouble,” he said. “It happens once in a while, and we get through it. In general, though, we had a good shearing season.”
He continued, noting that 2017 was an excellent year for wool production, with choice wool being delivered all spring.
“I can’t answer why fully, but it was a good wool year across Wyoming. We had good yields in 2016. 2017 yields were just about the same and, in some places, even higher yet,” Prager commented.
While the wool was not quite as fine, the staple length was longer than what is typically observed, and fleeces were heavier.
“If producers figured up their grease fleece weight, there were people who had fleeces a pound greasy heavier than they were in 2016 with the same yield,” he noted. “That’s pretty remarkable.”
Trends seen throughout Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota include longer staple length and more pounds of wool per sheep, said Prager.
He noted that Wyoming wool is at close to 100 percent clearance presently.
“The only things that are left are maybe some wools that were delivered late, perhaps because they didn’t want to sell or late delivery lambs out of feedlots,” commented Prager.
Most wool was between 21 and 24 microns, and when compared to 2016 market value, Prager explained the prices for 2017 are similar.
“Prices are a little bit higher but, generally, much the same as what we saw in 2016,” he said.
A difference was seen with finer micron wools from yearlings, however.
“The finer we go, that’s where all the big money was. I wrote three wool checks for yearlings at over four dollars per pound greasy,” noted Prager. “I probably wrote 20 checks for yearlings over three dollars per pound greasy. We didn’t do that in 2016.”
While premiums were seen in finer micron wools, Prager stressed that wool that was approximately 28 micron and coarser saw a 40 to 50 percent decline in prices compared to 2016.
“We’ve seen the finer wools get the premiums, and we’ve seen the courser wools take a nosedive. The black-face end is kind of tough,” he continued.
The majority of Wyoming wool is sold to top-makers, said Prager, noting that top is the product created when the wool is scoured, carded and combed.
“That’s the first stage processor. In the U.S., we have one major top-maker in South Carolina,” he commented.
Approximately 85 to 90 percent of fine-graded wool in Wyoming is shipped to the top-maker.
“The rest of it is going to end up in the export business,” he explained.
The wool that goes to the top-maker primarily goes into cloth production, continued Prager.
“The vast majority goes to military uniform maker cloth, worsted suitings,” he said. “That’s truly always been the best market for Wyoming’s wool.”
In the last 20 years, Prager noted that more top is going into machine washable wool sock production.
“Wool sock production is usually going to run 50 to 70 percent wool. They take the same fiber worsted suitings do, but it’s easily the fastest growing segment – and not just across the United States,” he stressed. “Their production is close to doubling every three years.”
Now and ahead
Prager explained the Australian marketing system is used to determine wool prices in the United States.
Our prices are pegged off of the Australian marketing system and converted to U.S. dollars,” he said. “It is what one Aussie dollar is worth here.”
Over the past year, wool producers have averaged 75 cents per Australian dollar.
“However, we’re about 79.5 cents right now, which is the weakest U.S. dollar we’ve had in the last 12 months,” commented Prager.
Looking ahead, Prager predicts that U.S. wool producers will have the same market that was seen in the spring.
“Wool is about 100 percent sold. Aussies are waiting for a new clip to come in with a lot of promise to remain for those finer microns,” Prager concluded.
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.