Henry Stewart.

The shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep online

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Youatt, was previously announced by M. Monge, in Annales de
Chimie, in 1795. This serrated or toothed surface confers upon wool
its felting property. When wool is carded it is torn to pieces and
mixed and twisted in every direction. The waved or curved
structure of the fiber of some qualities of wool aids in this twisting
and entangling of the fibers, (see fig. 49), and the points of the
scales projecting as so many minute hooks hold the entangled
mass together closely and firmly. Pressing, rolling, or beating



the wool together, causes it to adhere in a compact mass, in
other words causes it to felt firmly together, and the more
firmly, the more it is rolled, beaten, or worked. These scales
are very minute and numerous; in the length of one inch of a
fiber of fine Saxony wool, there are no less than 2,720 of them ; in
Southdown wool there are over 2,000, and in the Leicester wool
there are over 1,800 of them to
every inch. Upon the whole sur-
face of a fiber of Merino wool one
inch long and V 75 o of an inch in
diameter, there are over 23,000 of
these points. The more numer-
ous they are, and the more waved
or curled the wool, the better its
f elting quality.

The second layer, the cortical
substance, is the thickest portion of
the fiber. It also contains the
coloring matter. It is fibrous and
striped lengthways. The central
portion of the fiber consists of the
medullary substance, or marrow,
and occupies a narrow, irregular
cavity. Hair or wool is not hollow or tubular, as is frequently
supposed, but solid, and consists of these three portions. The fiber
grows from the root, and increases by addition of cells continuous-
ly formed in the follicle. It is thus seen that the growth and per-
fection of the wool depends in the most intimate manner upon
the nutrition and perfect health of the animal. An interesting
and valuable addition to the natural history of wool and hair has
recently been made through some investigation ordered by the
Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, for the purpose of
identifying the presence of sheeps' wool in manufactured goods, the
materials of which are ostensibly the hair of the cow and calf.
The investigations were made by Professors John L. LeConte and
J. J. Woodward, of Washington, D. C., with the help of a micro-
scope magnifying nearly 100,000 times, (310 diameters). The full
report of these investigators^ is published in the Bulletin of the
National Association of Worn Manufacturers, Yol. V, No. 7, 1875,
(Boston), a publication of the greatest value to intelligent wool-
growers as to all woolen manufacturers. After describing the well
known structure of hair and wool, the report proceeds : " But not-
withstanding this similarity of structure, most of the individual



hairs of the cow and calf are so unlike the majority of those of
the wool-bearing animals in their size and shape, that it might
seem easy to make the distinction. They are much shorter, much
thicker at their base, taper rapidly towards the point ; the medulla
occupies a larger proportional part of the whole hair, and the free
edges of the scales of the cuticle, which are so disposed as to form
from twenty to forty imbrications to the Viooth of an inch, lie
quite smoothly upon the surface of the hairs, so that their con-
tours, as seen under the microscope, closely approximate continu-
ous lines. These characters are so well marked that the coarser
hairs of the cow and calf can readily be distinguished from the
woolly hairs of any of the wool-bearing animals. On the other
hand, however, the majority of the woolly hairs of the sheep offer
a combination of characters which are never found in the hairs of
the cow and calf ; namely, each of these hairs extends from half
an inch to several inches in length without any medulla, and
without perceptible taper. They present at frequent but irregular
intervals, well-marked, one-sided, more or less spirally arranged
thickenings of the cortical substance, which give to the wool its
curly character. The mean diameter of each hair varies from
Veooth to the Yioooth of an inch, or even less ; and the scales of the
cuticle are so arranged that their free edges project somewhat,
forming well-marked imbrications, of which usually from fifteen
to thirty can be counted in the Viooth of an inch. The fine hairs
of the goat and kid, from the Yioooth to the Yaoooth of an inch or
less in diameter, also run from half an inch to an inch or more,
without perceptible taper, without medulla, and are clothed with a
cuticle resembling that of sheep's wool, but are almost, or alto-
gether, devoid of the irregular thickenings of the cortical sub-
stance which characterizes the latter. Similar hairs are found in
certain deer, and some other animals, but never on the cow or
calf." The report is accompanied by highly finished heliotype
illustrations of samples of different kinds of hair and wool.
The chemical composition of pure, dry wool, is as follows :


Carbon 49.25 per cent.

Hydrogen 7.57 " "

Nitrogen 15.86 " "

Sulphur 3.66 " "

Oxygen 23.66 " "

100.00 " "

The fibers of fine wool are very closely seated upon the skin.
The pure Merino has from 40,000 to 48,000 fibers on a single


square inch ; the original coarse wooled breeds have from 5,000 to
6,000 fibers on an inch. The twentieth cross of a pure Merino
ram upon a coarse wool race had no more than 25,000 fibers to the
square inch ; this fact shows very forcibly how long a period
it may take to remove the effects of one cross, for if this state-
ment be true, the presence of only Yi, 4 8 ,687, (less than one mil-
lionth part), of impure blood is sufficient to reduce the fineness of
the fleece nearly one-half. The yolk which is secreted from the
glands of the skin is an alkaline substance, partaking of the char-
acter of a soap. At its secretion it is liquid, and in some breeds
of sheep it remains in this state, moistening and softening the
fleece ; in other breeds, particularly some families of the Merinos,
the yolk thickens or dries into a sort of gum or wax of an orange
yellow color, which adheres to the wool in scales, and greatly adds
to its weight. The yolk or " suint " has been found by Dr.
Voelcker to consist of a combination of fatty acids with potash,
forming a potash soap which is soluble in water. When dried,
the yolk contains 59 per cent of fatty compounds, with some nitro-
gen, and 41 per cent of mineral matter, of which from 60 to 84 per
cent is potash. In some places this potash is profitably recovered
from the refuse liquid of wool washings. In November, 1865,
Maura ene and Rogelet communicated to the Chemical Society of
Paris, the details of their experiments on the nature of suint,
which led them to take out a patent for the manufacture of potash
salts from this source. They showed that suint is made up of
wulral fatty salts containing much potash, but not more than
traces of soda, and rarely even that; that the soluble portion
yields on evaporation and calcination a mixture consisting mainly
of carbonate of potassium, with chloride, sulphate, phosphate, and
alumino-silicate of potassium in smaller quantities, also a little
lime, magnesia, and oxide of iron and manganese, the average
composition being

Carbonate of potassium 86.78

Chloride " " 6.18

Sulphate " 2.83

Other substances 4.21


The yolk soluble in water forms from 20 to 22 per cent of the
weight of the fleece, and besides this, the fleece contains from 7 to
10 per cent of oil, which is not removed in ordinary brook wash-
ing unless it be in part dissolved by the action of the supera-
bundant potash of the soapy yolk. When the oil and yolk
are removed by washing, the wool becomes harsh and dry to


the touch. The presence of a considerable amount of yolk in the
fleece is justly supposed to indicate a superior quality in the wool,
and -while excessive yolk is undesirable, it is a disputed point just
when that excess begins. A fleece of Merino wool that loses one-
half in washing, can scarcely be said to have an excess of yolk.
Many breeders do not hesitate to go beyond this, and insist that
no amount of yolk can be called excessive. In this view they are
supported by the high authority of Mr. Youatt, who has said :
" farmers never bestow a thought on yolk, and neither understand
nor care about it ; this question without doubt will some day be
regarded as one of the very cardinal and essential points of the
sheep." Mr, Randall, our highest authority on fine wool, in his
work previously referred to, does not favor the production of yolk
to an excessive extent. He very justly remarks that when manu-
facturers cease to pay the same price for excessively yolky wools
as for those which are only moderately yolky, the breeding of
sheep that produce four pounds of yolk for one pound of wool,
must go out of fashion. Perhaps this matter may safely be left in
the hands of the manufacturers, who are not apt to pay for what
they do not want ; and while they continue to buy excessively
yolky wool, it will be most profitable for the farmer to produce it.


Wool is generally classed as short and long. It is also graded as
superfine, fine, medium, and coarse. The terms carding and combing
wools are no longer sufficiently distinctive, as many kinds of wool
are now combed that were formerly carded, and the continued
improvement of combing machinery gradually adds to the list of
combing wools. Merino wools of less than three inches in length
are now combed, as are the short wools of the Southdown grades.
It is very important for wool-growers to know exactly the wishes
and needs of the wool manufacturers, and to seek this knowledge
should be their constant aim. At present, and for some time past,
the coarse and medium wools have, in many parts of the country,
borne the same price as the finest Merino wools ; in some markets
fleeces of one-quarter and half-blood Merinos have sold for more
than those from full-blood animals. The quotations of wool hi the
New York Mercantile Journal of July 29th, 1875, were as follows:


Super Saxony fleece ." , . .50c.(

Full blood Meriuo .50c.(

i to t blood Merino 48c.<

Common fleeces 45c.<

Combing wool



Choice Saxony fleece XX [email protected] c.

Full blood Merino X : 4&c.(3)50 c.

$ blood Merino [email protected] c.

i blood Merino 45c,@47ic.


Super Saxony [email protected]

Full blood Merino 45c.(o)50c.

f blood Merino 46c.(o)50c.

The demand of manufacturers is clearly for medium wools, the
3 reduce of half-bloods or grade Merinos, or of crosses of Merinos
with Southdowns. The chief difficulty in wool-growing is the
tendency on the part of farmers to run in a crowd upon the same
variety and quality ; at one period it will be fine wool, at another
combing wool, and often they are led to breed without knowledge
or judgment. A great variety of wools is needed to meet the de-
mands of manufacturers, and .when a farmer has become possessed
of a flock of the right sort, his best course is to keep to it, and not
change because a temporary decline in his class of wool discour-
ages him for a season. In addition to these grade Merino wools,
there is a constant and increasing demand for combing wools for
worsted and coarse fabrics.

Combing wools are those fitted for a process known as combing,
which consists in drawing out the fibers so that they are straight
^nd parallel, the shorter portions of the wool called " noils " being
removed by the operation. The fibers are then spun into worsted
yarns ; the ends of the fibers being covered in the spinning, these
yarns are smooth and lustrous. In carding, the fibers are placed
in every possible position with regard to each other ; the ends
projecting from the yarn, form a nap hi the woven fabric which
covers and hides the threads. Carding wool must therefore be
short and full of curls ; combing wool, on the contrary, needs to
be long and free from curls and of a bright and lustrous surface.
Long Merino wools, although they are combed for making fine
cloths without nap, and for delaines, cashmeres, coburgs, and other
dress goods, are not designated combing wools, but as delaine
wools. Common flannels require in their manufacture the coarsest
common native wools up to medium Merino wools. For fine
flannels, fine to the finest wools are used; for blankets, the most
ordinary native wools, " noils," medium Merino wools and South-
down and grade Southdown wools are used. For shawls, all
grades of Merino wools, up to picklock, are used ; some fleecy
varieties are made of worsted combing wools ; felted cloth skirts
and other goods are made of the lowest grades of wool, but the


finer kinds, as piano and table covers, are made of medium Merino
wools. Knitted goods, such as undershirts, vests, drawers, hose,
etc., require a great variety of wools from the lowest qualities up
to the high grades of Merino ; certain fancy varieties requiring
the finer kinds of combing wools. Fancy cassimeres, meltons,
beaver cloths, and overcoatings, require chiefly medium grades of
Merino wool, a small quantity only of the finer grades being re-
quired for the best qualities. For mixing with shoddy, which is
an extensive manufacture, the finest and longest Merino wools are
found the most profitable, as such wool carries the greatest quan-
tity of the short fiber of the substitute. Ladies' cloths, cloakings,
and thin dress goods require fine long Merino wool ; the finest
and longest Merino wool is used for men's fine worsted coatings.
Serges, moreens, alpacas, lastings, mohair lusters, furniture dam-
ask, reps, bunting for flags, webbings of all kinds, sashes,
picture cords, tassels, and soft goods, such as nubias and shawls,
braids and bindings, are all made of the long combing wool
of the Lincolns, Leicesters, and Cotswolds, or their grades.
For various carpets, coarse Texan or Mexican and California
wools are used, and similar grades of foreign wool known as Chili
and Cordova carpet wools. This enumeration indicates as closely
as need be, what kinds of wool the American farmer may grow
with safety and without risk of wanting a market. Considering
that the imports of wool of many of the grades mentioned, and of
the recapitulated woolen goods, amount every year to fifty mil-
lions of dollars or over, there would certainly seem to be no danger
that the farmer will lack a profitable market for any kind of wool
he may find it convenient to grow.


It will be noticed how large a proportion of the foregoing man-
ufactures derive their material from the Merino, either directly in
its pure state, or indirectly as grades or cross breeds. Some infor-
mation as to the character of the Merino wool, and the tests by
which superior breeding animals may be known and selected for
the improvement of native sheep, will therefore not be out of
place. The character of a Merino fleece may be judged by the
following tests, viz :

Strength of Fiber. This is indicated by the amount of grease in
the wool, abundance of oil or yolk indicating a healthy condition
of the animal. The first sign of disease is a change in the charac-
ter of the secretions, and the skin being the chief secreting organ
of the body, it is there that the change may be soonest noticed.



The moment the health of the sheep fails, the growth of the wool
is arrested, along with the secretion of the oil or yolk, and the
continuity of the strength of the fiber is destroyed to the great
reduction of its value.

Fineness. In a perfect fleece, the wool should be equally fine
over the whole body ; coarser wool may be looked for, if any-
where, on the top of the shoulders and the rump, and a weaker
quality on the breast and belly. The finest wool is but V 13 oo of
an inch in thickness, ordinary wools YTBO to YSSO of an inch in

Curl. The curl of the wool is very important. This is the
waved or crimped character of the fiber which in the perfect wool
consists of minute bends or crimps. There should be a perfect
regularity in these waves, which ought not to be so abrupt as to
appear as folds. In very fine wool there should be at least 30 of
these waves to the inch in length. (See d, e, fig. 49.)

Thickness. This quality refers to the closeness of the fibers
upon the skin. A pure Merino should have from 40,000 to 48,000
fibers upon every square inch of its skin. The weight of a fleece
must necessarily depend on this characteristic.

Closure of the Fleece. The closure of the fleece on its outer
surface is of great importance, for the reason that a well closed
fleece is im-
pervious to
dust and dirt
which would
its way into
the wool and
injure its
quality. The
closure is ef-
abundance of yolk

Fig. 50.
focted by the

Fig. 51.

which gathers at the ends of the
wool, and mats the fibers together.
The viscid gum gathers dust, that
coats the fleece with a black surface, which feels to the hand
as a firm crust. When the crust is pressed the elasticity of
the fleece is at once perceived. Upon parting the fleece to inspect
the wool, the experience or ignorance of the operator is at once
perceptible. He should grasp the fleece at the points of the fibers
with the fingers and thumbs of both hands, and part the surface



Fig. 52.

Fig. 53.

gently, exposing the wool to the skin. The wool, on opening the
fleece, should appear beautifully white and glossy, or rich yellow
or orange colored, according to the style of the sheep. The fleece
is then closed carefully without allowing any dust to fall down
into the opening. The appearance of the open fleece should be
banded with varying colors of light and darker yellow or orange,
as in fig. 50, or when opened, as
a cup in fig. 51. .A well closed
fleece will exhibit a surface as
shown at fig. 52, and a badly
closed one will appear as at fig.
53. The well closed fleece is di-
vided into small sections, which
are tabular or flat and smooth
upon the surface ; when the fleece is uneven in length, it cannot
close well, and a few fibers only are matted together ; the surface
is then dotted and not smooth ; this forms the defect known as
" toppiness" The defects in wool may be enumerated as follows :

" Stripy " or Watery Wool, generally shows itself in inferior ani-
mals on or near the shoulder, where the best wool ought to be.
The wool subject to this defect is devoid of those beautiful natu-
ral curves or waves which are characteristic of really good wool.
When compressed in the hand, it has no elasticity, and handles in
a dead and lifeless manner, more like flax than wool. Such wool
is only fit for making inferior goods. This defect is a sure
proof of impure blood, and no sheep exhibiting it should be bred

Toppiness is not of much importance as affecting the quality of
the wool, but it indicates a defect in the breeding of the sheep. It
has already been described. When this defect, however, extends
to a matting together of the wool at the ends of the points, a
quantity of noils are made in working the wool, and there is a
waste. When toppiness is found in the fleece of old sheep, it be-
comes a more serious objection, as it is quite possible that a lamb's
fleece may be toppy by reason of uneven growth in its early life,
and after having once been shorn, the defect may not reappear.

Broad-topped Wool is seriously defective, and very decidedly
reduced in value ; no animal having this defect should be kept in
a flock having any pretentions to character for excellence. It
consists in an interlacing of the ends of the fibers which are split
from the top downwards. The fleece appears in good condition
superficially, with a good even top, but the surface is divided into


broad masses or " tops," and when one endeavors to part these to
examine the wool, the mass is found to be almost felted together,
and must he torn apart. This matted wool is dead, and breaks off
in the process of manufacture, causing very great loss of material.

Felty Wool is that which has a tendency to felt together on the
sheep's back. The defect is caused by an absence of yolk, and in
highly yolked sheep, by a continued wet season, which washes
the yolk from the fleece. It is a direct result of low condition
from poor feed, or of chronic ill health. Some sheep are consti-
tutionally subject to "felty wool," and should be weeded out of
the flock.

Cloudy Wool is that which adheres together from the bottom of
the fleece upwards, but not in so great a degree as in felty wool.
A flossy appearance is discovered at the bottom of the staple,
which is removed by the comb. In clothing wools this is not so
objectionable as in combing wools ; in the latter the floss is thrown
out and becomes waste. This is also a constitutional defect, and
sheep so affected should be weeded out of an otherwise good flock.

Kemp is very easily detected, and although it may be found in
but a few spots at first sight, it indicates that it exists all through
the fleece. It consists of coarse, white hairs, projecting from the
surface of the fleece, on the face, the forearm, the inside of the
flank, and in rams on the scrotum also. Whenever it is apparent
in these places, it will invariably be found through the greater
part of the fleece, chiefly on the whole of the belly, half-way up
the sides, on the rump, thighs, and shoulder. In these places,
short white hairs will be found in the staple, at the roots of the
wool ; and as these hairs will not take any dye, they injure the
fleece for the manufacture of dress goods or fine cloths. Kemp
lessens the value of the wool nearly or quite one-half, and should
make a breeding animal worth no more than its weight as mutton.
On some heavily wrinkled Merino sheep, these kempy hairs may
be seen on the edges of the wrinkles, and on the back of the head,
but nowhere else. But it is even then a fatal objection to such
sheep as breeders, for this is kemp, and may appear in all the pro-
duce of such sheep, and there can be no certainty but some of the
produce may be badly affected.

Break in wool renders the fleece absolutely worthless for any
combing purpose, and however fine the staple, or otherwise good
in quality, it can only then be manufactured into a class of goods
for which inferior wool is used. It is exactly what its name im-
plies. When a breachy staple is taken and stretched, it parts with


great ease at the middle or some portion of its length. There
is a weak spot, and if the fiber is examined with a microscope, it
will be found very much attenuated at that spot, and of a dull,
dead appearance. From what has been already said about the
structure and growth of wool, it will be easily understood that
when by bad management, neglect, starvation, overfeeding, irreg-
ularity in feeding, want of water, or any other evil which affects
the condition or health of the sheep, the growth of the wool is
temporarily stopped, even for a day, this suspension of growth
must inevitably be marked by a weakness in the fiber, which can
never be remedied. As the wool grows, this weak spot is carried
forward, and if the evil is soon removed and the sheep recovers
quickly, it is still there and there it remains. No defect is so fre-
quent as this ; to avoid it, the flock must be kept with perfect
regularity, and must receive no check for however short a time it
may be. This involves the most skillful and careful management,
which is unfortunately too rare. Regular poor feed may make an
inferior staple, but one worth more than a breachy staple, which
may result from one single neglect in the course of a season. Want
of water causes more break in wool thr.n any other evil to which
sheep are subjected by careless owners or ignorant shepherds.

Uniformity in the fleece covers many minor defects, and to de-
termine the evenness or uniformity of the fleece, the shoulder is
first examined. Here the finest and best wool should be found.
Taking this as the standard, the wool from the ribs, thigh,
rump, and breech, is compared with it ; the nearer the latter ap-
proaches this in quality, the better. If it is all equal in fineness,
the fleece will be " even " in regard to fineness. If the wool on all

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 13 of 23)