The ideal fleece will be composed of well formed and free opening staple. It will generally show clear cut crimp formation in the staple.
Even if staple crimp should be lacking, fibre crimp as opposed to plain straight fibre, is acceptable.
It will grow at least 125mm of staple per year, preferably 150mm.
It will be full handling and weighty.
It will feel springy and crisp but not actually harsh.
It will be low in lustre – not shiny like Romney wool, not flat and chalky like Southdown.
It will be free of kemps and black fibre.
It will be of as good a colour and as free of vegetation as the class of country and the climate will permit.
Without a doubt, fleece weight is the most important single factor in achieving maximum returns for wool. In selection for any other parameter, weight should come first if there is conflict. Fortunately many of the ideals for the breed are consistent with maximum fleece weight so conflicting situations are not too common.
In subjective assessment, full handling, long stapled wools indicate good fleece weight but in the final analysis only actual weighing gives the complete picture. While this may not always be seen as a convenient selection technique on commercial farms, all ram breeders should be using it, and significant gains will be made only when weighing is used as a selection and breeding tool.
In earlier years the standard set by the Society was for ewe wools 32 micron and finer down to 32-36 microns. This may have been unrealistic as all flocks continued to produce some coarser woolled sheep and, as breeders will testify, there was a commercial demand for such sheep.
In response to a drop in the price differential for fine wools, the Society widened the acceptable range to include 36 micron for ewes and 36-38 micron for rams. The situation now seems satisfactory, good sheep are being produced in this range and commercial growers on improving country can obtain the class of Perendale they require.
While those who stayed with the finer Perendales have not lost out, many clips have settled down to a 32-38 micron range and as such, grading into one sale line by the removal of cotts, harsh, short and faulty fleeces is satisfactory.
Clips with a finer element should benefit by classing out the fine wools to separate the carpet from the knitting wools. Hogget clips especially can benefit from classing or, in the case of the smaller clips, grading out the low end to leave a fine line. 33 micron and 32 micron are premium wools.
Staple length does affect value with increasing values up to 150mm and a rapid drop off from 75mm downwards. This should be borne in mind when planning second shearing. Over 75mm opens the way for second shear wools to be used by the semi-worsted process.
In breeding, the short, blocky, harsh Cheviot type fleece should be eliminated because of their shortening effect on the clip and because they are normally light weight types.
Tensile soundness in wool is a very desirable feature and is reflected in price. However, because of the task set so many of our Perendale flocks, foraging over second class hill or on developing blocks, it is inevitable that much of the wool will be tender. Fortunately, woollen yarn spinners who can utilise tender wool are aware of its bulking properties for carpet, blanket or knitwear yarns, and are using it.
However, soundness opens the wool to a much wider demand and where conditions allow, management practice should aim at avoiding, or at least minimising the stresses that cause tenderness and break.
Wool that will wash white is more versatile in use than stained wool and will normally be of higher value. To a great extent colour is at the mercy of the climate and environment.
The following faults can be reduced in the flock by culling when obvious enough to gain attention.
Some of them would be automatically taken care of by selection on fleece weight but others require inspection.
Weak Back Wool
A fault found on the back, normally just behind the shoulders but may be more extensive. It shows as a patch of thin-stapled, washed-out, ultra-fine crimped wool, often very tender. It is frequently accompanied by fleece staining close to the skin down the sides caused by the rain having free access. In severe cases it may be found that the belly wool and behind the ears shows similar weakness.
Hairiness and Excessive Britch
With a high proportion of the national clip being processed into carpet yarns, these faults have been played down in recent years. This is unfortunate because although extra hairiness is of little consequence for good or bad in the coarser ewe wool, it does affect the value of both the lambs’ and the hoggets’ wool.
Balanced advice would be ‘Do not go overboard looking for these faults but when they are obvious to you, cull them out’. Do guard against being misled into thinking brushed tip on the sides is hairy. Look higher in the fleece where it has not been affected by brushing against fences or scrub.
Plain and Tippy Wools
Plain-straight fibred, lacking crimp. These wools will lack bulk and should be discriminated against.
Kemps are short, dead-white hairy fibres that may be found floating free in the fleece. They will not accept enough dye to colour in processing and are very brittle. They are a fault in any breed and kempy fleeced sheep should be culled. Look along the back and on the thighs.
Short Staple and Mush Wool
Both of these faults indicate low fleece weight. In flocks where fleece weighting is a basis for selection these types will be eliminated fairly quickly. Conversely, if the faults are identified visually and culled, fleece weight will be improved as an added benefit.
The short stapled wools will often be harsh and the fleece on the sheep almost resembling a Southdown fleece. While it looks compact and dense it will in fact be light.
The mush fleece will look characterless and may be fluffy. It will be very much the reverse of ‘full handling’.
Both types are prone to weather staining.
Early recognition of ‘Perendale type’ wool as being ‘springy’ and ‘resilient’ led to breeders being exhorted to aim for low lustred and springy wools.
Technically ‘bulk’ represents the wool’s resistance to compression and is measurable. Low bulk gives readings under 20, medium bulk will fit from 20-25 on the scale, with high bulk wools commencing at 25, while a satisfactory target for the Perendale would be 27 plus.
Bulky wools are generally low in lustre and have an assertive, helical crimp, somewhat in the nature of a coil spring. When processed into yarn, this crimp asserts itself and springs the fibres outwards creating greater yarn diameter and thus ‘bulk’ especially in relation to weight.
When used in carpet production this gives an improved, dense-pile appearance and a more luxurious impression underfoot. Finer qualities used in knitwear give more warmth and comfort in relation to weight and have improved shape retention.