The potential to reduce fibre diameter of wool from Merino sheep using feeds that are readily available and cheaply produced in New Zealand was investigated. Two hundred and twenty fine wool two year old and mature Merino wethers were allocated to four feeding treatments for 12 months. The four feeding treatments were 1) silage, 2) silage and grass, 3) grass allocated three times per week, and 4) grass allocated once per week. Monthly liveweight, wool growth rate and fibre characteristics were measured. At the trial conclusion annual fleece production was determined and wool samples from each treatment group combined for line analysis. Liveweights fluctuated over the trial period indicating the difficulty of controlling feed intake accurately under pasture conditions. Wethers on the silage treatment had significantly lower fleece weights (2.4 kg) and finer fibre diameter (17.0 ± 0.2 and 17.6 ± 0.3 m for 2 year old and mature wethers respectively) than other treatments (3.2 kg, 17.6 ± 0.2 and 18.6 ± 0.3 µ for 2 year old and mature wethers respectively). Staple strength ranged from 17 to 36 N/ktex, with weakest wool from the silage treatments. Bulk values were low, ranging from 24.0 to 27.3 cm3/g. Wool was processed by a Japanese company for super high grade men's clothing fabric. The treatment groups were processed separately and evaluated at all stages from greasy wool to fabric. Little difference was found between the treatments except for the wool from the young silage treatment which had a superior fabric handle but was inferior at other processing stages.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 54, , 173-176, 1994
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