Don’t Fear The Fleece :: Wool Judging Tips


by Aaron Jennings, Wool Judging Coach at Texas Tech University

The collegiate wool judging season will kick off in January with the National Western Stock Show Wool Judging Contest. This is a contest steeped in tradition and a key facet of the national championship. The season will continue with contests at San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo as well as Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.  Ultimately, the national championship will be determined at Houston. The collegiate judging opportunity is unique and will refine public speaking skills, decision making and time management.

Quick  Tips!

…for the grading rail

Grade – determined by the individual fiber diameter and measure in microns

Yield – the percentage of clean wool fibers present in a fleece

Staple – set lock length requirements for different grades

Character – comprised of the color, crimp and condition properties of wool

Purity – the presence or absence of kemp or black fibers

…for placing classes

Placing – determined by set criteria of weight, yield, clean wool, staple, grade and uniformity

Questions – answered with the locks pulled from each individual fleece in a class

…for talking the talk 

Micron – the measurement used to determine wool grade measured in 1/25,000 inch, wool typically ranges from 17 -32

Grease Wool — Wool as shorn from a live sheep, not washed or scoured

Scouring – The actual washing of dirt, grease, and foreign matter from grease wool. This is usually done in a
lukewarm, mildly alkaline solution followed by clear water rinses that results in clean wool

Lock – a small, approximately finger-sized bit of wool that tends to cling together when shorn from the sheep

Color – a desirable fleece is bright and white in overall appearance

Crimp – the natural waviness of a wool fiber, should be distinct in appearance

Condition – refers to the amount of grease present, should be appropriate for the breed

Kemp – wool fiber with a course, heavy medulla and hollow center that will not accept dye

Wool judging offers an excellent opportunity for youth in 4-H or FFA to become proficient in a judging contest that is conducted at the collegiate level. Collegiate teams are comprised of predominantly freshmen students. Recently Texas Tech teams have been extremely successful, winning four Co-National and a National Championship in the past six years. Please contact the Department of Animal and Food Sciences or visit to learn more about the judging program and degree options at Texas Tech University.

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