Wool is a natural fibre which grows on sheep, and is a bit like hair. When it is cut, it grows back. Wool clings together and is environmentally friendly. By eating grass and drinking water, sheep produce a fibre that no scientist using chemicals can copy. It has a great feeling and drapes well. Wool has a great ability to absorb moisture and because of this ability, it is relatively free from static electrical charges. It is also resistant to soiling. Wool is comfortable in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is warm in Winter and cool in Summer. Unlike synthetic materials, because of its natural fibres, wool breathes, allowing comfort to the wearer. Wool can be dyed easily and sits into desired shapes. It can be compacted into felt and is relatively fire resistant. Wool tends to char rather than burn and when ignited, it burns slowly.

Sheep came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. They were brought by Governor Phillip from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. They had fat, long tails and their wool was like hair. Sheep are not native to Australia. The first white people wanted sheep for their meat and not their wool. In 1797, 2 naval officers named Henry Waterhouse and William Kent bought 26 merino sheep at the Cape of Good Hope. Some of the sheep died on the voyage, but the others were brought to Sydney. Merinos have been bred in Spain for more than 2 000 years and were famous for thier heavy fleece and very fine wool. Henry Waterhouse and William Kent sold merinos to John Macarthur, William Cox, Captain Thomas Rowlet and Reverend Samuel Marsden. Most of them crossed their merinos with their other sheep. The result were sheep with coarse wool and large bodies. John Macarthur wanted fine wool so he bought more merinos and bred from them. He sent one bale of wool to England in 1807. Reverend Samuel Marsden and Alexander Riley also bred merinos. By 1810, there were nearly 33 000 mixed breeds in the colony. All of them were on the coastal plain between the Blue Mountains and the sea. By April 1815, William Cox and a team of convicts built a road across the mountains. Soon settlers and their sheep were spreading over the plains of New South Wales. John Macarthur, breeder of the first merino, was featured on the Australian $2 bill.

Sheep were taken to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) soon after it was settled in 1803. In 1828, there were 680 000 sheep in Van Diemen's Land. Merino sheep from Saxony in Germany and Leicester sheep landed in SOuth Australia from the eastern colonies in 1838. The first sheep in Western Australia were sent from Van Diemen's Land in 1829, but they did not do well. Merino were then sent from South Australia to Western Australia. By 1879, there were 1 million sheep in Western Australia.

The Henty brothers settled in Portland in 1834 and merino sheep were in the Port Phillip district (Victoria), from the time of that settlement. Other sheep were brought to the Port Phillip district form Van Diemen's Land. Among them were Saxon merinos brought by the Forlonge family in 1835.

Sheep were taken to the Darling Downs in Queensland soon after first settlement in 1840. The farmers who spread their sheep through Australia had their troubles as well as their successes. More than 200 000 sheep were killed during the drought of 1843 and 1844. They were boiled for their tallow (fat) which was made into soap and candles. Many shepherds left for the goldfields during the gold rushes of 1851. The farmers fenced thier paddocks and left sheep without shepherds. The sheep put on more weight and grew larger fleece and they were free to roma around their paddocks. Wool was taken long distances to port by bullock wagon. Such journeys took several days.

Three out of four Australian sheep are merinos. Most other sheep are crossedwith merinos. The first merinos were bred in Spain. Australian merinos are now a separate breed of sheep. Not all merinos look alike. There are four main strains of merinos.

1. Peppin Merinos - Nearly three out of four merinos in Australia belong to this strain.

2. Emperor Merinos - They are known for their heavy fleece.

3. Spanish Merinos - These are bred from Spanish sheep like Peppins, and raised in some areas.

4. South Australian Merinos - They are bred for dry districts and are the largest sheep of the merino type. Their wool is coarser and has a lot of natural grease to protect it.

5. Saxon Merino - They are breed from sheep taken from Spain to Saxony in Germany in 1765. In Australia, they are only bred in high rainfall areas and are smaller than the other merinos. Their wool brings top prices and is made into expensive cloth.

1. Coriedale - These are a cross between merinos and Lincolns and were bred in New Zealand in 1868. They were brought to Australia in 1882 and give better meat than merinos. They live in wet climates.

2. Polwarths - They are three quarter merino and one quarter Lincoln and they do well in wet climates. They have long wool and it is coarse like a merino and are raised mostly in southern parts of Australia.

3. Border/ Merino crossbreeds. - These are bred by crossing merino ewes with Border Leicester rams. They have fine crossbred wool as well as good meat. They are bred in New South Wales.

4. Gromark and Hyfer sheep - These have a lot of lambs.

5. Poll Dorsets - They are bred in South Australia from Dorset Horns and Corriedales. Lincoln, Border Leicester and Dorset Horns are English breeds of sheep. They are often crossed with merinos and other breeds.

Before the wool leaves the sheeps' back, it is being looked after. Sheep are dipped in a special liquid that kills insects in their fleece. This is done in late Summer. Sheep hate being dipped but it is necessary for their health. The sheep are rounded up with the help of trained sheep dogs. On very large sheep stations, men ride on horse back or motor bike. The sheep are made to paddle through a trough while men push their heads below the surface. In Autumn, the rams are put in with the ewes for mating. The ewes spend a few weeks in the best pasture the shepherds can provide. This helps to make them strong enough to give birth to the lambs and produce milk to feed them. Lambs are born in late Winter. In warm climates they stay outside from birth but in cooler places, the shepherds keep them indoors for their first few days. Shearing takes place in Summer. The sheep are rounded up and are penned in a corner of the field or brought to large shearing sheds. The fleece comes off in one piece. It is a very skilled job. The shearing tool is like an electric razor. A good shearer takes less than 5 minutes to shear a sheep and can shear 200 a day. Most sheep are only shorn once a year but in some parts of New Zealand, a second shearing may be made later in the year.

Wool can be woven into fibre for suits and dresses. It can also be rolled into balls and sold for hand knitting.

Other products made from wool

Wool can even be used to soak up oil from oil spills. That's environmentally friendly!! In 1982, in Victoria, 65 people decided to see how quickly they could make a 3 piece suit from the wool on the sheep. It took 1 hour, 34 minutes and 33.42 seconds! It took 2 minutes to catch and shear the sheep. Woollen products vary in price from the size of the product to the quality:
eg. woollen socks - $6
a quality jumper - $100
suits - $500

Lanolin is a by-product taken from wool grease. It is a cream used for your face and body. The CSIRO has invented a process to remove all chemicals form lanolin. When sheep and lambs are killed for food, their skins are removed and sold. Sheepskins are made into coats, slippers, gloves, boots, car seat covers, carpets, floor rugs and bed underlays.

During 1985, wool was shorn from 168.1 million sheep and lambs in Australia. 97% of our wool goes overseas. Australia is still the biggest exporter of wool in the world. The main buyers of our wool are: Japan, Europe, Russia, India, Taiwan and South Korea. Great Britain used to buy most of our wool but buys much less now. Most wool that Australia exports is still "greasy". This means it is just as it was when shorn from the sheep. Japan is the biggest buyer of scoured wool. Scoured wool is the dirtiest wool which is washed before being sold. Wool makes up one tenth of our exports and earns a lot of money for our country.

For over 100 years, wool was the product that earned the most money for Australia. "Riding the sheep's back" was the wool term people used to use, which meant wool supported the country. Whilst the Wool Industry no longer supports Australia, it is still a very important industry.

Artificial Substitutes:
Today not all articles are made from 100% wool. Some things are made from synthetic substitutes which look like wool but are not as prickly as pure wool. These substitutes are a cheaper alternative. Some products have a percentage of wool as well as a synthetic fibre. Researchers are trying to work out ways to make wool less prickly by removing the coarse fibres or covering them up.

In the past, wool has has a problem with shrinkage when put in a washing machine. A process has been developed by the CSIRO to stop wool shrinking. Moths can be a problem to woollen clothes because they like to eat holes in them. To prevent this, chemical can be used, or clothes can be put into a plastic bag. Moths can't eat through plastic. Wool is healthier to our environment. It is biodegradable. Unlike plastic, it will break down and go back into the soil. It is renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, such as oil, we can produce more of it. Wool is reliable, it can be used over and over again. In conclusion, that's the wool story, the long and the short of it!

1. Where do sheep go shopping?
Ans: Woolworths

2. Why can't you trust a sheep?
Ans: Because they're always spinning yarns.

3. What do you get when you cross a kangaroo and a sheep?
Ans: A woolly jumper.

4. What do you call the first sheep on Mars?
Ans: A Mars Baa!

5. What was the sheep doing on the way to the farm?
Ans: A ewe turn

6. Why did the ram jump off the cliff?
Ans: Because he heard someone singing "There'll never be another ewe."

7. How do you call out to a girl sheep?
Ans: Hey ewe!

8. Why did the girl throw a glass of milk over the poddy lamb?
Ans: She wanted a Milky Baa!

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Wheat by Caitlin

Cotton by Sarah J.

Beef Cattle by Nash

Wool by Alyce

Sugar Cane by Dean

Dairy Cattle by Daniel T.

Timber by Daniel N.

Poultry by Katherine

Pigs by Daniel C.

Peanuts by Geoffrey

Angora Goats by Prue

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