Finding a wool judging team at the University of Wyoming only makes sense with the state being one of the top five wool producers in the nation.
But 18 years have passed since there has been any record of a wool judging team.
Led by Whit Stewart, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science and UW Extension sheep specialist, the newly created wool judging team is preparing to compete at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver Jan. 17.
Stewart coached two wool judging teams as part of his assistantship while working on his doctorate at New Mexico State University. This is primarily where he gained his collegiate coaching experience, he noted. Stewart also co-coached a 4-H wool judging team in Gillette while working for UW Extension in Campbell County.
He said creating the team complements efforts to keep the sheep program.
“When we look toward attracting students in the college of ag, those sheep-specific students who have a real interest in sheep production, this is a great competition for them because it’s based on real industry standards,” said Stewart. “It’s something that complements their education, their oral articulation skills, their ability to reason through a challenge and use logic.”
The 13-member UW team has two assistant coaches, Katie Hazlewood and Bryce McKenzie.
Different types of wool have different uses. Competitors must identify and attribute a value to different types of wool as part of the judging.
There are three components to the contest.
Students examine 15 different fleeces (one fleece is the wool off one sheep for a year’s worth of growth) in the grading reel. They identify the micron of the wool, which tells how fine the wool is and its uses, such as “next-to-skin,” outwear, carpets or blankets.
Then they identify the clean yield on the fleece, which is a percentage range. There are also length requirements as well as character and purity designations. All of these factors relate to the industry and the value of the fleece. This first part of the contest is worth the majority of the points.
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