MISSOURI — While the livestock and crop industries are two of Missouri’s largest agriculture markets, there is a lesser known business that continues to have an impact on the state’s economy.

Animal fibers such as wool and hair are used to make a variety of products and are even shipped overseas to foreign buyers.

KMZU’s Dan Watson spoke with Brent Carpenter, an Agriculture Business Field Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, to learn more about the animal fiber industry in Missouri, which breeds of livestock produce the highest quality fibers and where the wool and hair are shipped for manufacturing.

Click below to listen to their conversation, which aired Tuesday on KMZU.


Photo: USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service

While the animal fiber industry is not a large market like beef cattle or other livestock, there is a growing number of farms that raise animals for their hair.

“We do have. actually, an increasing number of farms that produce sheep and goats,” Carpenter said, “on thing that has changed is we’re raising the kind of sheep that don’t produce wool. More and more what we’re raising is hair sheep.”

According to Carpenter, hair sheep are not a dual-purpose animal like their wool counterparts as they are not typically used for meat as well as fiber.

As with beef cattle and hogs, certain breeds of sheep and goats are preferred over others for the quality of fiber they produce.

“If you’re going for quality, the Mareno Sheep is kind of the gold standard. . .,” Carpenter explained, “in the U.S., sort of a round about descendant of the Mareno is the Rambouillet and they produce our finest fibers in this country.”

Others breeds of sheep that are popular are the Dorset, Hampshire and Suffolk breeds.

Some of the products made from animal fibers include apparel, carpeting, home furnishings and upholstery.

When it is time to sell the wool or hair, producers have a host of methods to choose from.

“. . .some move direct from one individual to another,” Carpenter stated, “some wool pools, were smaller flocks will come together and they’ll do some first processing, sorting, grading, but those buyers come from out of state.”