New Zealand is often acknowledged as one of the best wool producers in the world but where did it all start?
Going right back to Capt. James Cook in 1773 during his second visit to New Zealand in 1773, James Cook released a ewe and a ram in Queen Charlotte Sound. They survived only a few days after apparently eating poisonous plants – an inauspicious start to this country’s long association with sheep.
In 1834 a flock of 105 Romneys were imported from Australia. (Lets not tell the Aussies that bit) and the following year a few bags of their wool was sent back to Sydney for sale - and hey presto an industry was born. By the 1850's New Zealand had really worked it all out and keeping the woolly fellas away from the poisonous plants helped. Wool is still very important to New Zealand as a product although the number of sheep has reduced a lot since our 'hay' day of the early 80's when we peaked at over 70 million sheep. Just a little aside here - this is what a traffic jam can look like here in New Zealand.
NZ herald Photo.
So lets talk production! Sheep are clever little woolly fellas and produce wool year round. They are shorn once or twice a year and each sheep produces roughly 5.4 kilograms of wool per year. That is unless the sheep is called Shrek. Shrek hit world headlines in 2004 when he was found after hiding away for 6 years to avoid being shorn (we assume). Shrek ultimately was shorn of 27 kilos of wool! He lost a lot of weight very quickly and also gained several centimetres in height.
Wool comes in many different ways - the fibre can be thick and coarse and will be used for carpets and even insulation right through to the very fine Merino wool which is white in colour and is ideal for clothing as it can be worn next to the skin. Besides this the 'byproducts' are also used - for instance the lanolin is used in many cosmetic products so this is truly the King of Sustainability. It is sustainable. renewable, environmentally friendly and multi purpose.
Did you know that little tiny wee New Zealand is the fourth largest supplier of wool in the world! For a small country we truly punch above our weight when you see we are only surpassed by Australia, China and the USA - told you New Zealand was an amazing country. The luxury brand Loro Piana from Italy is known for buying the most premium bales of wool once a year seeking out the finest micron wool and New Zealand and Australia hold the market as our wool is the finest in the world - not a bad reputation to have plus it is nice to bring to a world class product to you. Our jumpers are all made here in New Zealand and we are rightly proud of that and you know that when you support New Zealand farmers you are supporting sustainability and being environmentally friendly too. Can we put in the puns now? It isn't a Baaa'd idea is it? We knew ewe wouldn't mind because we aren't pulling the wool over your eyes. OK we will stop now!