Shearing & clip preparation
Shearing commences as early as June (mainly pre-lambing shearing
of breeding ewes) and the bulk of the shearing is in October-November.
Most wool is harvested under the “Acondicionamiento de lanas” guide. SUL
(Secretariado Uruguayo de la Lana) has been involved in long term programs
to improve shearing methods and clip preparation standards in the shed with
the support of the local wool industry. This code of practice describes the
recommended practices to prepare the Uruguayan clip. The main objectives are
to prepare uniform lines of wool, free of contamination and correctly documented
in order to provide wool exporters with a product they can handle confidently and
achieve the highest standards required for processing into quality products.
When wool is shorn from the sheep, fleeces are classed and skirted in the
shearing sheds, removing bellies and stained pieces. The categories
of wool obtained are: A Fleeces (bulk of the wool lot, of the best quality);
B Fleeces (with some minor quality problems such as poor colour, shorter
staples, etc); I Fleeces (inferior class, with major defects); L fleeces
(fleeces of animals with pigmented skin spots). Oddments obtained are: Pieces
(skirted edges from the fleece); Bellies (wool from the belly region of the sheep);
Crutchings (wool from the tail section of the sheep, containing urine or dung stain)
and Locks (short wools, second cuts, etc). In each flock, hoggets and adult sheep
(breeding ewes and wethers) are shorn separately.
The predominant marketing system is the direct sale to local processors
and exporters (auction selling system does not exist in Uruguay).
Pricing is generally based on an assumed 90:10 fleece:belly ratio with
a single price for each lot. The use of on farm pre-sale objective measurements
of wool is increasing as a consequence of local industry demand. SUL’s certified
test results (basic measurements include mean fibre diameter and scoured yield of A fleeces)
are widely used as a basis for pricing wools. Other marketing option is provided by Central
Lanera Uruguaya: growers that are members of this cooperative are paid an average season price
according to micron and subjective assessment of other quality attributes.
The best standard of clip preparation achievable is the SUL green label certification. About 80 accredited shearing contractors -trained and supervised by SUL- are responsible of this “green label” clip quality control at the shearing shed. These contractors –shearers and wool handlers- take responsibility for higher clip preparation standards and pressing the wool in 200 kg non-contaminant bales. In last seasons, green-labelled lots higher price premiums. A "yellow label" also exists but in this case the clip quality control is done by the woolgrower owner of each lot or contractors in training to get the green label.