Sheep Week – Wool Marking

photo by Hannah Thiessen

photo by Hannah Thiessen

The sheep we use for Malabrigo are only the finest merino sheep in Uruguay. This means that the farms have to meet our high standards too, especially in areas like animal treatment, cleanliness, and herd management. SUL, which monitors regulations of wool breeding and herd management, keeps very high quality standards as well. For instance, the Uruguayan wool farmers are not allowed to use mulesing methods to deal with flystrike — instead, they are trying to breed out the excess folds, and keep their herds small enough to deal with infection and disease.

The herd I visited is located in Paysandu, which is one of the Uruguyan states that contains the most wool farming. The ground there is rocky, which makes it perfect for sheep, who are best left to nibble at what grows up through the rocky ground. If they have too much food, the micron and fineness of the wool is compromised — too little, and the sheep are unhealthy and produce brittle fleeces and fibers. The balance between the two is crucial, and herders pay attention.

photo by Hannah Thiessen

photo by Hannah Thiessen

When shearing season comes around, the herds are marked for quality. Sheep marked with one blue dot (the paint is a chalky substance which washes out when the fleece is cleaned) are fine — those marked with two blue dots are the superfine sheep that win competitions. The finest wool at this farm is some of the finest in all of Uruguay. Malabrigo purchases Β the wool that this farm produces, so you are, for sure, going to be knitting with wool from these sheep!

Chau, Hannah

24 thoughts on “Sheep Week – Wool Marking

  1. Devin

    OMG! They are so cute! Thanks to Hannah for doing Sheep Week! I love being able to see the fiber, on a sheep, that might just end up in my stash! πŸ™‚

  2. Kate

    What great photos Hannah! Sheep have such character in their faces πŸ™‚

    Interesting info about the wool and the markings! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Melissa

    I love how soft and squishy they look! And some of them seem to be looking right into the camera!

    How cute!

    Thanks for posting these!

  4. Stacy

    The sheep look wonderful! Thank you so much for teaching us more about one of my favorite fibers.

  5. danielle

    hehehe. I want one!!! But, I doubt that I could breed them nearly as well as that farm. So, this just reaffirms the fact that getting yarn from Malabrigo is the best! πŸ™‚

  6. zzJen

    I am so thrilled you were able to post stuff about where the sheep are from and how they are cared for. This makes me so happy to finally know!

  7. Kitten With A Whiplash

    The next time I pick up some Malabrigo at the LYS, I can bring it home and show it these pictures, so it won’t feel homesick.

  8. Kathy in San Jose

    Your pictures are terrific, and now I want to find those sheep and plunge my fingers into their wool! Oh, I guess I can actually do that – where’s my Mal stash?!

  9. Tricia

    I’m glad to learn about the markings. I saw marked sheep in Scotland and wondered about it. Those appeared to just have markings on the flank, though; they were probably meat sheep and therefore were just marked to show whether they had been bred.

  10. glokeroo

    Is it weird I want to do some sort of woolly mosh pit action onto those superfine sheep? πŸ˜‰

  11. Sally

    Thanks for teaching us about our favorite fiber. I love the photos of the hard, cold, stone walls juxtaposed against the bushy, soft, warm fleece on the sheep. And the blue marking dots…which Azul colorway are they closest to?!

  12. Emmaknits1979

    I forgot you were doing Sheep Week! Thanks for posting this, I love hearing about the animals and the pictures are fantastic. Can’t wait to read more…

  13. QBabe

    Those sheep look so soft and squishy, hee hee! Thanks for posting about this. It’s great to know that Malabrigo uses the finest sheep for the finest wool – I knew there was a reason there’s nothing that compares with it’s lovely softness.

  14. RedDaLeftyKnitter

    I am so so thrilled that you are posting all this!! It’s like I get to take an educational trek even though I can’t escape work. You are so totally awesome sweetie!!

  15. Criquette

    I am very relieved to learn that the ranchers aren’t allowed to use mulesing. I have been feeling really conflicted about my love for merino after learning of this inhumane practice. At least I can enjoy my Mal with an easy conscience!

  16. Jane

    So good to hear that they’re kept so well.We need more of this type of farmer who doesn’t resort to cruelty and neglect just to up the production of the ‘product’, in this case super-yummy wool…mmmmmmm.

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