‘Waste Wool’ is a Burden for Farmers. What if it Could be a Solution Instead?


When Leanna Maksymiuk began keeping sheep at Lone Sequoia Ranch, her organization in British Columbia, she did it with a direct interest in fiber art. Today, she has a flock of 25 sheep, mainly Navajo-Churros, animals not typical in Canada. There was a prepared market for their wool, and when she began offering it, she offered out rapidly.

To keep item in supply, she started asking other sheep farmers in her location if they had any fleeces they weren’t utilizing. For sheep that are raised as meat, shearing is still a routine part of their maintenance, however the wool typically isn’t utilized for anything. Farmers throughout the United States and Canada end up burning, burying or stockpiling their wool since processing it is pricey and seen as not worth the time and labor needed. She was wishing to get simply 15 fleeces, however Maksymiuk discovered that a great deal of farmers were wishing to unload their wool someplace.

” People were much like, ‘here, take it– simply take all of it,'” states Maksymiuk. “And, in some way, we wound up with like 75 fleeces.”

As she carried out the troublesome procedure of cleaning up the wool, Maksymiuk understood she would wind up with a great deal of unusable product. Much of the wool was filled with raw material such as manure, straw and leaves. Bags of this “waste wool” relaxed for a long period of time, with Maksymiuk not sure what to do with it. The service didn’t appear up until a long time later on, when another member of the wool market offered her a concept: Turn the wool into pellet fertilizer.

Maksymiuk is now part of a wave of individuals stimulating on an emerging market for wool that is typically disposed of, routing it back into farming.

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Left: Maksymiuk’s flock. : Maksymiuk holds wool from a Navajo-Churro sheep. (Photos thanks to Leanna Maksymiuk)

Pivoting to pellets

Kimberly Hagen, a previous grazing professional at the University of Vermont, does not utilize the term “waste wool.” It’s not truly waste, she describes– simply wool that requires a function. She is among individuals who has actually put years into studying what that function might be.

For lots of sheep farms, wool is not a practical earnings stream. There are a couple of associated factors for this, consisting of the increase of artificial fibers and thelack of processing infrastructure The expense of doing something with wool is typically greater than any earnings that might be made from the wool. It’s difficult to approximate just how much wool goes unused in the United States, however it’s a lot.

” A great deal of individuals drag it out to the far corner of their farm or things it in bags and leave it in the corner of the barn ’til it gets to use up a lot space, they do not understand what to do,” states Hagen. “For many people, it simply does not even pay to drive to among these collection websites. It’s simply not worth it.”

Beyond yarn, wool can be a practical product for upholstery or insulation for green structure. It’s likewise a useful mulch for gardens. One huge barrier when it concerns processing wool is the act of cleaning it, called searching. This is pricey and often needs transferring wool cross countries. Hagen started looking into one possible opportunity for unused wool that would not need searching: wool pellets for fertilizer.

Wool makes good sense as a soil change. It has nitrogen, practically no phosphorus and a bit of potassium. In pellet type, it administers the nitrogen to the soil gradually.

” What’s great about the wool pellet is since it’s so fibrous, it’s a sluggish release; it truly decreases that procedure,” states Hagen. Throughout heavy rains, it does not all remove. This might potentially total up to less nutrient contamination in the waterways in contrast to artificial fertilizers.

Through the University of Vermont, Hagen started evaluating the included worth of wool pellets to crop soil. Initial trials suggested that the plants supplemented with wool pellets carried out too or much better than the control plants.

While no longer with the university, Hagen remains in the procedure of raising cash and making an application for grants to buy pellet equipment and ultimately purchase wool from sheep farmers.

” I wish to see sheep manufacturers have the ability to have a profits stream from the wool,” states Hagen. “So, my objective is to pay the farmers for that wool enough that it covers their expenses for getting their sheep shorn and perhaps a little bit more if I can make that take place.”

Left: one sheep. Right: Wool pellets.

Left: One of Maksymiuk’s flock. : Wool pellets from Waste Not Wool. (Photos thanks to Leanna Maksymiuk)

Getting the equipment

In action to the understanding that a great deal of wool goes to lose, the national Fibershed group began a waste wool working group. A member of this group was pelletizing it for a soil change. This concept stood out of Peggy Hart, a member of the Western Mass Fibershed and wool artist, author and creator of Bedfellows Blankets, which weaves artisan blankets on antique looms. The Western Mass Fibershed chosen to handle the task.

” I’m constantly wheeling and handling purchasing wool and assisting sheep farmers get their yarn spun,” states Hart. “It’s attempting to bring this specific fiber back to individuals’s awareness since for numerous years, individuals have actually not utilized wool. And yet, we continue to raise sheep.”

Western Mass Fibershed requested grants and, with the financing it got, will have the ability to purchase its own equipment to pelletize wool. This previous season, Hart drove 100 pounds of wool to Indiana to be transformed into pellets as a trial run. This year, the group offered the pellets at farmers markets and offered some to UMass to check in its permaculture gardens.

Hart is wishing to get the equipment and have it up and running by the late winter season or early spring, around the time the very first shearing of the year happens. She’s approximating they will have the ability to process 10,000 pounds of wool from the surrounding location, which she does not prepare for will be difficult to discover. Lots of farmers she’s talked to enjoy to simply eliminate the wool.

The other primary objective for the future is to compensate farmers for their waste wool. It will not be much to begin, states Hart, however, ideally, it would a minimum of cover the expense of shearing. At The Big E, a reasonable in Massachusetts, Hart began speaking to a few of the farmers who were revealing their sheep.

” They simply sort of chuckled when I inquired what they made with the wool,” states Hart. “And when I stated that we in fact want to pay farmers for their waste wool, they were simply overjoyed.”

Left: Maksymiuk's child sits over waste wool. Right: Maksymiuk sells Waste Not Wool pellets.

Left: Maksymiuk’s kid sits over waste wool. : Maksymiuk offers Waste Not Wool pellets. (Photos thanks to Leanna Maksymiuk)

Building a service

Back at Lone Sequoia Ranch, after finding out about the possibility of making wool pellets, Maksymiuk started and purchased the equipment from Europe. She began pelleting in June of 2022. To date, her organization Waste Not Wool has actually rerouted 9,000 pounds of waste wool from the land fill, burn stack or basic absence of usage. In addition to bringing nutrients to the soil, Maksymiuk has actually anecdotally observed that it holds water well, too, and assists aerate the soil.

She informs individuals to consider it like cleaning a wool sweatshirt– when it’s damp, it weighs a lot more. “It’s so heavy since it’s filled with water,” states Maksymiuk. “That’s like these little pellets.”

Now, she offers the pellets at in-person markets and online. In the future, she ‘d like to do pellet trials with farmers and custom-made pelleting– taking wool from farmers and offering it back to them as pellets.

” Lots of individuals that have sheep likewise have gardens,” states Maksymiuk. “So, I would truly like to be able to take their wool, pellet it and have it return to them so that they’re making their farms more circular.”


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