Canada's Wool to Market
Early French settlers brought the first sheep to Canada about 1650. Canada's sheep population has varied considerably but today there are over one million with the largest flocks in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. Most Canadian sheep are bred for meat. Suffolk, Southdown, Hampshire, Dorset and Cheviot are among the most popular breeds. Wool breeds include Rambouillet, Corriedale and Columbia.
The usual practice is to shear in the spring before lambing. An expert shearer using power equipment similar to barber clippers only larger, can shear a sheep in less than five minutes, rolling off the fleece in one piece. Fleeces are sacked and shipped to CCWG for grading and marketing.
Wool is weighed when it arrives at CCWG warehouse and then graded and core tested. Grading is very labour intensive. The raw wool is spread out, inspected by hand and classified by average diameter and length of the fibre, colour, lustre and crimp (tight, natural wave). From Carleton Place the graded grease wool is packed in 600 pound bales and shipped to world markets.
Although Canada's three million pounds is a fraction of world production, Canadian wool has a niche because of its high elasticity. This elasticity or springiness enables wool to retain its original shape. Canadian wool is blended with wool from other countries with less of this desirable characteristic. Since there is virtually no wool processing in this country, only ten percent of Canada's production is sold here. Ninety percent is exported to Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, United States, China and India.
The complexity of wool processing is why the wool is graded before it is sold. Medium wool goes tot he woolen system and becomes sweaters, knitting yarn and tweed fabrics. The finer wool enters the worsted system, undergoing an additional process called combing and drawing which removes short ends (noils) and further straightens the long, smooth fibres. This wool makes the finest of wool fabrics. Coarse wool is streamed into the carpet system.