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A Practical Guide to Woolclassing

By Robert Pattison, Extension Specialist, MWI, Otago

Classing can be defined as "grouping fleeces into sale lines in the woolshed, taking into account factors such as fineness, length, colour and style."

Good preparation is the key to consistency. Before shearing starts, the classer sums up the wool in the flock by:

  1. Building up a knowledge of the flock, i.e. average micron, breeding programme.
  2. Checking previous year's records, broker account sales, woolsale catalogue, discussion with woolbroker/grower.
  3. Previous shearing dates for all mobs.
  4. Checking on number of sheep to be shorn.
  5. Inspecting sheep before shearing starts.
  6. Considering any likely differences between mobs.

Remember, the objective is to present the whole clip in a way that will gain the maximum return for the farmer, by minimising the variation within lines of wool made in the woolshed.

Skills required of a good classer:

  • Knowledge to assess the “potential of the clip” and make decisions on the level of preparation.
  • Technical knowledge and ability to consistently assess each fleece and place it into the appropriate line.
  • To think and plan ahead.
  • Have a clear picture of what is being done.
  • Leadership and supervisory skills.
  • To be able to set standards, lead by example, and maintain the standards set for fleece wool, oddments, and packaging.
  • To prepare accurate specifications and clear instructions on how the clip is to be presented for sale.
  • Can advise woolbroker/grower of any special instructions.
  • Ability to react positively to unexpected changes.
  • Maintains an ongoing dialogue with the farmer, shed hands and shearers.
  • Is able to evaluate advice from people who visit while shearing is in progress.

Classing strategies

It is essential to start your planning before shearing starts. You need to talk to:

  • Woolbroker to discuss previous year's information.
  • Grower to discuss;
    • number of sheep.
    • previous shearing dates.
    • likely differences between mobs.
    • breeding objectives, average micron for flock.
    • special classing requirements to meet special contract specifications.
  • Woolhandlers to discuss:
    • woolhandling requirements, it is good practice to ask a shearer to shear 1 or 2 sheep to demonstrate woolhandling on the board, and skirting levels on the table.
    • woolshed set up, placement of fadges, bins, table.
    • placement of staff, their responsibilities for board and table and their rotation.
    • sort out who will be the leading woolhandler to take responsibility for the woolhandling standards.
  • Presser:
    • Discuss line descriptions, bale weights, tidiness of bales, branding and mob changes.

Example of planning and preparation

Clip Summary:

  • 3,000 ewes
  • Ave fibre diameter 21µ
  • Ave fleece weight 4.5 kg/head = 13,500 kg
  • 3 stand woolshed
  • Shearing 750 – 800/day
  • Skirted fleeces 3.5 kg
  • Oddments 1.0 kg
  • Approx. 50 fleeces/bale (approx. 175 kg)

The classer is new to this job. Information supplied by farmer shows that the woolclip has been mostly a fine/medium category, i.e. between 19-22 micron. The farmer has been buying finer rams in the 19 micron category. This means there are probably two, maybe three, leading lines.

The classer looks at sheep in pens and yards, which confirms his/her thoughts. However, the classer also notices some of the sheep have shorter poorer style fleeces. This means there will possibly be an extra secondary line.

Shearing starts

Classer sets up bins for AAF and AAM lines. They allocate extra bins for Stg [does this stand for "strong"?] and secondary lines to accommodate off-type fleeces.

Line summary


Fibre diameter

Staple Length



AA ExF Mer










AA M Mer





AA Stg Mer





F Mer



Ave colour (Y)


AF Mer (short)




After the 1st run

1st Run takes 2 hours. 175 – 200 sheep have been shorn, which means a total of 16 runs.

Line Description

No. Fleeces
@ 3.5kg in 1st run

Approx. total
No. fleeces
(16 runs)

Approx. total
No. Bales
(16 runs)

Micron Type

AA ex F

15 fleeces

x 16 = 240

5 bales



3 bales & 2 fleeces

x 16 = 2432

48 bales



30 fleeces

x 16 = 480

10 bales


AA Stg

8 fleeces

x 16 = 128

2 bales


F (Yellow)

2 fleeces

x 16 = 32

Part bale


F (Short)

4 fleeces

x 16 = 64

1 bale


Using this approach a wool classer has the ability to see the overall potential of a wool clip and can make classing decisions accordingly.

Tasks between runs:

  • Check oddments.
  • Check with presser to see they are numbering bales correctly, to detect any duplication of numbers.
  • Establish a routine early as this usually continues until the cut out approaches.

There are no prizes for:

  • Making small lines, unless there are speciality fleeces finer than 16-17 micron.
  • Binning large quantities of wool.
  • Upsetting shed staff with unreasonable demands.
  • Dithering over decisions, getting behind or “woolled up”.
  • Being late.
  • Being untidy.
  • Being inconsistent when giving instructions to woolhandlers.

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