The US is no stranger to wool production: hundreds of thousands of sheep and lambs are shorn in the country every year, and niche varieties have experienced particular popularity. Though suffering a bit of a decline due to troubles in the American sheep industry, the market is bouncing back with increasing demand for American products seen both domestically and internationally. Here are five facts about the US wool industry that you need to know:
- The United States is currently the third largest wool-producing country in the world, following Australia and China, and followed by New Zealand, Argentina, and Turkey. In 2015, the USA produced a total of 150,873 tonnes of wool.
- Texas is the top wool-producing state in the US, with more than 1.95 million pounds produced in 2016. Texas’ leading position is followed by California, Wyoming, Colorado, and, in last place, Utah. Texan wool producers sheared more than 270,000 sheep and lambs last year.
- Domestic demand was high throughout the 1940s and 50s, with textile mills accounting for the majority of consumption in the US. Today, American manufacturers rely heavily on export markets thanks to the overwhelming popularity of synthetic materials seen in the past decade, though the American military remains one of market’s largest consumers. However, thanks to shifting consumer preferences, there is currently increasing demand from the domestic market: 77% of American consumers now say that they would be willing to pay more for an American-made product.
- Though some producers shear their sheep in the fall, the majority of sheep used for production in the US are shorn in the late winter and early spring. Exceptions are found where weather events or the seasonal climate threatens the well-being of the animals and the quality of the wool. There are a number of factors that determine the quality, including sunshine, nutrition, and the environment that the sheep being shorn live in.
- Generally speaking, there are four different marketing mechanisms for wool in the United States: warehouse systems, marketing cooperatives, pools, and private treaties. The warehouse system is most popular in wool-producing areas, while the other mechanisms give access to the market to producers in more remote areas of the country.
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