Coop gives wool-growers a ewe-nique opportunity

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— About 8,000 pounds of raw wool was weighed on Saturday, marking the early stages of a local company's efforts to keep wool growing a viable business in the Yampa Valley.

Seven local sheep ranchers brought their wool to the parking lot of Kamar Pack 'n Ship to be weighed in brown burlap bags. Some bags weighed close to 275 pounds each.

For the fourth year, Routt County Woolens has paid above-market value prices for wool grown in the Yampa Valley. All the wool weighed Saturday will be made into blankets sold at numerous stores in Routt County.

"This is the beginning of the blanket," Routt County Woolens partner and local wool grower Susan Shoemaker said.

The company pays 75 cents a pound for white wool, nearly doubling the 38 cents a pound at market value."

"Routt County Woolens is just moving right along," Woolens partner Nancy Mucklow said.

The company started four years ago collecting about 5,000 pounds of wool. Now with the addition of a new line of the blankets, the company is collecting about 12,000 pounds this year.

"We've already shipped about 4,000 pounds to the mill," Mucklow said.

After being weighed, the wool is put into a truck and taken to Faribault, Minn., to be scoured, spun into to yarn and made into the blankets.

The scouring process usually takes out 50 to 60 percent of most wool's weight. However, because of its high quality, the wool weighed Saturday will only lose 30 to 40 percent of its weight, Woolens partner and wool grower Greg Brown said.

Besides dirt cleaned from the wool, lanolin is removed when the wool is scoured. Lanolin is a natural body grease produced by the sheep and is used in hand lotions and facial creams.

The end product of the wool collected will be a limited edition blanket sold around Christmas time.

"Sales have been great," Mucklow said.

"We're giving wool growers a reason for growing sheep" and supporting the agricultural heritage of the Yampa Valley, Shoemaker said of Routt County Woolens growth and success.

The new line of blankets is the first time the company has put out a different product besides the ones sold at Christmas time. They'll be smaller and come in five different colors.

"This is a product we can take a lot of pride in," Shoemaker said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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