Industry Asks ARS to Study Areas of Concern
February 15, 2019

The American Sheep Industry Association submitted comments this week on future research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service concerning American sheepskins and wool, according to ASI Deputy Director Rita Samuelson.

Prices for even premium sheepskins have plummeted in recent years, and ASI is encouraging research in two areas that might assist the American sheepskin industry: yellow and discolored wool, and methods for the rapid detection of blemishes.

"Discolored wool severely limits the color range of how wool can be dyed on a skin, and it is not clear until AFTER initial processing costs are incurred (washing and scouring) how bad the discoloration is. Yellow and discolored wool is a major issue in the wool market, as well," read the comments submitted to ARS. "It has been thought by U.S. tanners that yellow wool is the result of manure and urine contamination in feedlots. However, there are times heavily manured pelts are processed with the manure and other contamination being washed out that wool is bright and white. It would be helpful to better understand the root causes of these yellow and discolored wools."

Concerning the detection of blemishes, the comments read, "It is often hard to identify blemishes in raw pelts, such as those resulting from cockle or bruises, that diminish the value of the final leather product. If there was a method to identify defects in pelts before the processing, it could save time and money and potentially increase value of quality pelts."

The comments also called for research on the biodegradability of wool under aerobic, anaerobic and marine conditions, as well as for ARS to study the removal of paint (from paint branding often used by producers) during the scouring process.