The middle men Center of the Nation Wool links regional wool growers to textile buyers
Published on Jan. 18, 2020
Belle Fourche, S.D. – “We are a middle man in every sense of the word,” says Center of the Nation Wool Director Larry Prager. “We receive wools from producers and do marketing on behalf of the growers.”
He continues, “For example, if we have a customer looking for a specific length, micron and color, we go through our lots to find something matching their needs.”
Larry notes they do the reverse of this when ranchers bring wool in during shearing time.
“Marketing starts when we receive wools from producers,” says Larry. “We will target lots to where they have the most potential and will return the most money to producers.”
“It is a quality-driven conversation on both ends,” says Larry. “At the ranch level, when we see premium lots we want to get those growers in the best position possible to make the most money.”
Larry explains the process of marketing wool begins at the ranch during shearing.
“Ranchers will call before shearing to get an idea of what the market conditions are like,” says Larry. “Sorting is done at the ranch, and once the wool is in bales, it arrives at our warehouse.”
He continues, “From there, we check for quality markers such as length, color and uniformity. Each lot is core tested to establish how fine and clean the wool is. We take this info and form descriptions for each lot and begin the process of marketing the lots to potential buyers.”
He notes some buyers are looking for a very specific quality or certain features to the wool, while other buyers are purely price driven in their search.
“The thing with marketing wool is sometimes we will get a call from someone looking for wool for a very specific purpose,” says Larry. “If they need certain lengths, I can’t ship them anything less.”
“Our function as marketers is targeted marketing on behalf of growers,” says Larry. “We know how wool can be best applied for the best price.”
“We are uniquely positioned in that we can offer storage and year-round marketing options,” says Larry. “We have the capacity to handle up to five million pounds of greasy wool, and we are fortunate to have some of the best wool in the world at our fingertips.”
History and future
Larry explains Center of the Nation Wool began in 1960 in Carter County, Montana when a group of ranchers wanted to market their wool together because core testing was just becoming popular.
These ranchers formed Nation Center Wool Pool, which later become Farmers and Ranchers Wool. The same core group incorporated in 1984 and became Center of the Nation Wool.
“Those same original producers are still a part of our organization today,” says Larry.
“I think Center of the Nation Wool has survived while others have failed due to the strength of our producers,” says Larry. “That sentiment remains with us as we move forward.”
“We are coming off about a five-year run where wools have been trending higher,” says Larry. “But, we are seeing a declining market structure in the last six months.”
He continues, “Despite a declining market, sheep numbers are stable and improving and in many rangeland scenarios, sheep are the most efficient animal to stock.”
“I think sheep will stabilize, and we are in a place where quality of wool on open range prairies and growing conditions are excellent,” says Larry. “We have great genetics in the region and producers who know what they are doing.”
“Moving forward, we are not a very diversified company. We market wool and that is our sole purpose. I don’t foresee us moving into other sectors such as feeding,” says Larry.
He continues, “We are representing ranchers because they are busy people, who individually don’t have much leverage on the market. We have the ability to target specific markets. That’s where our leverage really lies.”
Center of the Nation Wool can be reached at 605-892-6311.Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.