The British Wool Marketing Board, part 2

posted in: Travel, Wool | 5

Continued from yesterday, a visit to the British Wool Marketing Board, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. . . . 

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Graders are looking at length, color, strength, and cleanliness of the fleece. For example, if there’s too much vegetable matter, the wool goes into a bin with the correct grade number followed by a V.

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Trolleys are carefully labeled and organized by grade.

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Along one wall are some vertical holding areas for unusual wools: colored, and so forth. There aren’t as many of these types of wool so they take longer to accumulate and be ready for the next phase of management (baling). The Bluefaced Leicesters were in this area.

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So were the Jacobs.

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Once there are a number of trolleys of a particular type, their contents are dumped into a baler. See the little bright blue bit in the yellow mechanism at the top of the baler? That’s a trolley, being upended.

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You can see its next motion here. There were two balers. On one, the trolleys emptied with one tip-and-bounce. On the other—perhaps a greasier type of wool—it took five or more tip-and-bounces to empty each container. I didn’t have an opportunity to count how many trolleys go into a bale. I can reverse calculate the amounts from my notes, but that will delay this post. . . . It’s a significant quantity. . . .

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The wool is compacted into the bale.

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Wires are wrapped around it loosely, and when the bale comes out of the baler the simple expansion of the wool tightens the wires.

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Each bale gets a label. . . .

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and is then transported to the coring unit, which will be used to test the quality of the bale. This generates the information on which the buyers at the auction base their bids.

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The pressure plate on the left simply pushes the bale up against the coring mechanism on the right, which has an outer cutting edge that removes a section of plastic and an inner boring device that goes all the way through the bale and extracts a section of the wool for testing.

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This is what the core selection looks like just after it’s been bored out.

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This is a core sample labeled and ready to go to the lab for analysis.

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And now a couple more photos of the main area. This is right by where the graded and sampled wool is stored, pending its sale at auction and delivery to the buyer.

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And I like this one, close to where we came into the warehouse, because it catches a glimpse of so many aspects of the wools’ travel through the area.

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By the way, there appear to be just over a dozen very skilled people running this entire operation, with some seasonal help to, for example, move trolleys around. That includes both office and warehouse staff. It’s pretty amazing.

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5 Responses

  1. This is wonderful to see, Deb – it is all fascinating and enlightening! Thanks so much for sharing so many details with us. Safe journey!

  2. Working on catching up—I’ve been teaching again, staying in a hostel (beautiful, but we’re cooking our meals and the wifi is only what I carry with me). Will try to do some photos of here before long. But after I teach and have my location changed for me and am with new people.

  3. Helene, the Wool Board is steadily increasing returns to the shepherds. That’s it’s goal. AND the best profit they can get (although we are obviously a limited market) is selling selected and carefully raised individual fleeces to hand spinners.

  4. Just fascinating thank you. Is it unusual for the different breeds to be separated. I don’t think this happens in Australia – my understanding is that the wool is separated into ultra fine white, fine white, mixed coloured (sent to developing countries) and carpet. Rebecca

  5. Rebecca, the wool at the British Wool Marketing Board is separated by quality. Some of those quality types (numbers) also have breed names attached to them. The wools in those quality groups have the characteristics of the breeds associated with them, but may not certainly be from those breeds.

    The British Isles have so many different types of wools that they have a larger number of categories than one might believe possible!

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