Colorado is full of fascinating finds and plenty of animal agriculture. Find out about the worthwhile and lucrative industry of Colorado sheep farmers taking wool production to the next level.
Facts about Wool Production
The world's biggest producer of wool is Australia, exporting nearly 25% of the world's supply. The U.S. has always been a top contender, and Colorado especially has taken advantage of the growing value of wool. The price of Merino wool, which is the most high-quality wool available on the market, has been driven up by demand from Chinese consumers, which has been further exacerbated by the strength of the U.S. dollar.
Colorado sheep farmers continue to strive to produce superior-quality Merino wool, and have been fairly successful. Ernie Etchart, sheep rancher and president of the Colorado Wool Growers Association, believes that, "Here in Colorado, we have some of the best production in the United States and, in my mind, it rivals some of the better fine-wool production coming out of Australia." Wool has also grown in demand as natural fibers are slowly replacing synthetics in many of our clothes, especially as people grow more concerned about the materials we wear.
Typically, sheep are sheared once a year in the spring, to clear out their heavy coats in time for warmer weather. Many factors affect the quality of wool. Breeding and genetics, for example, contribute to fine wool, and many breeders only purchase animals from premium suppliers. Nutrition, weather, and natural contaminants like cocklebur also contribute to wool quality.
Colorado Wool Farmers
Here's a list of just a few Colorado wool growers:
Yampa Valley Fiberworks: Lorae and Lewis Moon purchased a local fiber mill and started selling their expertly-spun fibers. They have their own flock of sheep, and are renowned all over the U.S. for their expertise. They often receive wool from farms to transform into silk-smooth skeins.
Desert Weyr: In Garvin Mesa, husband and wife pair Eugenie and Ken McGuire raise very rare and stunning Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. The species comes from the Welsh mountainside, and the McGuires chose to breed these sheep to preserve their genetic diversity.
Degoatsnsheep Ranch: Sustainable ranch owners Jim and Linda Smith built their home by hand nearly three decades ago. They house Wensleydale sheep and angora goats alongside their greenhouses, orchards, and a fiber-arts studio.