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WOOL TECHNOLOGY #118187 - Ask Extension



Asked March 20, 2013, 4:33 PM EDT

What are the conventional feed additives can be improve wool technology

Mesa County Outside United States

Expert Response

I will assume that the question is "Are there feed additives that can improve wool quality?"

Wool quality is a function of several factors including fiber diameter, tensile strength and  cleanliness.  The sheep's diet does play a large role in determining wool quality both in terms of nutrition and feeding practices.  Regarding feeding practices, minimizing vegetative content of the wool is important so  grazing practices (avoiding plants with burrs) and feeder design (designs that keep feed out of wool) are important considerations.   Wool growth is determined by the amount of dietary protein that is absorbed from a diet (specifically the amount of sulfur containing amino acids).In conventional diets, it is hard to formulate a diet that will result in an enriched supply of absorbed sulfur containing amino acids as the vast majority of protein fed to an animals is altered by microbes in the rumen.  Any diet that maximizes the absorption of protein from the gut will increase wool growth.  This however is not always ideal because there is an increase in both fiber diameter and length with increasing absorption of dietary protein.  The increase in fiber diameter will sometime lower the value of the wool as wool value is commonly a function of fiber diameter.   The value of the wool may actually go down with "improved" nutrition as the reduction in price per unit weight due to increased fiber diameter  may be greater than the increase in fiber mass.   Undernutrition or stress conditions are to be avoiding however because they can cause a weakness in the fiber due to interruption of cell division in the wool follicle.    The only feed additive I can think of that would improve wool yield would be provision of the amino acids cysteine and/or methionine in a chemically altered form so as to resist degradation in the rumen.    This supplement is not commercially available so this is mostly of academic interest.  Even if it was, it would tend to increase both fiber diameter and mass and as explained above, these could be offsetting factors for wool value.
Richard Ehrhardt Replied March 20, 2013, 6:22 PM EDT

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