Wednesday, 13 April 2016

British Wool Marketing Board - Part 3

Part 3 covers the tour of the Wool Grading Department at Bradford.  The same process happens across the BWMB eleven depots.

The sheets enter the depot, either from a sub depot or direct from a producer dropping off their packed sheets.  All the sheets are weighed as they enter the depot and are marked with the producers information.

Drop off area and Grading
The sheets are moved into position ready for the fleeces to be hand graded and sorted.  The fleeces are graded according to their type.  The grader takes around 5 - 6 seconds per fleece to access this is looking at among other things staple length, colour, breed and cleanliness.  That fleece is then placed in the appropriate blue tup (skep) depending on decision the grader makes.  The breed of the sheep is not always the main consideration when a grader sorts through the fleeces although breeds like Bluefaced Leicester are always sorted and kept together.

It is after this point that the fleeces are no longer farm specific (the weights and grades for each producer are recorded so that accurate payments can be made) but instead classified by their grade.  Every grade has a grade number which classifies it into one of the six categories (fine, medium, cross, lustre, hill and mountain) which are then broken down even further (hogs, ewes, breed, colour etc).  

Full Skeps (you can see the grade numbers above)

Once eight skeps of the same grade have been gathered they are then baled into large green bales using the machine below.  The machine compresses the fleeces and wraps them in plastic. 
Green bales
The green baler machine

The green bales are then placed in the warehouse area.  Once there are roughly 24 bales (around 8000kg) this can then go to auction as one lot.  Before the sale a core sample from each bale is taken which is scientifically analysed to provide additional information for potential buyers.  

Other things to note relating to grading and auctioning the wool

  • A producer has the option to drop off their sheets at a depot or one of the 14 sub depots.  If they choose not to do this then they are changed a fee depending on where the fleeces are collected from.
  • Here is a link to the different grades of fleece (scroll to the bottom of the page).
  • There are eighteen auctions a year.  They are all held at Bradford.
If you have any questions let me know! The next few blog posts will all be focused on answering the questions we had over in the BritYarn Ravelry group.

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