Relationships between Softness and Feltability with Cuticle Scale Pattern and Fibre Dimensions within Individual Fleeces from Six Breeds of Sheep


  • Roland Sumner


Five adult Merino, Finn, Poll Dorset, Perendale, Romney and Lincoln breeding ewes (n = 30) were fleece sampled on the midside region of the body before shearing in the spring. The wool characteristics of the individual samples ranged from a crimp frequency of 0.3 to 6.0 crimps per cm; a mean fibre diameter of 18 to 45 μm, a mean fibre curvature of 10 to 90 °/mm and a staple growth rate of 0.2 to 0.8 mm/d. The samples were solvent scoured and carded before subjectively assessing them for softness. Feltability was assessed as the mean diameter of feltballs formed under standardised conditions. Mean scale height, mean scale width and mean scale length of five fibres randomly drawn from each sample were measured by scanning electron microscopy. Soft wools had a slower wool growth rate, more crimps per cm, finer mean fibre diameter, higher fibre diameter variation and lower mean fibre curvature than harsh handling wools. Fibre softness ranking was best predicted by mean fibre diameter alone. Feltball diameter was not significantly related to any single measured wool or fibre characteristic but was best predicted by mean fibre diameter, mean fibre curvature, scale height and scale length.