Woolclassers sharpen up their act

PGG Wrightson wool store warehouse manager Ben Askew and woolclasser Kylie Finn inspect some of the wool on show at the woolclassers industry day in Ashburton.

Students from Southern Institute of Technology, seasoned woolclassers from around the country and industry representatives converged in Ashburton for the annual New Zealand Woolclassers Association industry day.

It was also timed for the association’s annual general meeting.

Woolclasser Kylie Finn, of PGG Wrightson woolstore in Christchurch, was a guest speaker and gave insight to woolclassers at the coalface to make the job more streamlined for those working in woolstores.

That ultimately benefited farmers in the pocket.

Ms Finn, originally from Tuatapere, in Southland, has been working in woolsheds since she was 16, and in the industry off and on for the past 17 years.

She had worked around the South Island and in Australia before settling at PGG Wrightson in Christchurch where she had been for the past three years.

“Not a day doesn’t go by when I don’t learn something new,” she said.

She was able to share her experiences with woolclassers offering a “do and don’t list” that included making sure all writing – on bales and paperwork – was clearly readable, accurate packing and identification of wool bales and checking content of bales was consistent with multiple bales on lines.

And if woolclassers could access computerised spreadsheets it would help eliminate reading issues.

She said well-prepared clips did not got unnoticed in the woolstore.

“Bring them on. I love them. It’s great for us.”

Woolstore staff had come across many undesirable items in wool bales over the years including items of clothing, knives, drench guns, metal bars, cans, brushes and plastic.

The contamination could not only damage machinery but it altered the bale weight, which hit the farmer in the pocket.

Woolclasser Janet Hackshaw, of Dunedin, takes part in a wool identifying exercise ahead of the annual woolclassers industry day.

Seasoned woolclasser Janet Hackshaw, of Dunedin, was among those at the industry day. She has been in the industry off and on since 1979.

The latest stint since 1990 has involved classing mostly half breeds and Merino wools.

She has now taken her work home and has 11 pet Merino sheep.

The industry day served as part of a week-long block course run for the students doing the New Zealand Certificate in Wool Technology and Classing through Southern Institute of Technology.

Tutor Richard Gavigan said it was a two-year course and 17 students, aged from early 20s upwards, were at the industry day.

“It’s an opportunity to meet and network with other industry people. Our group are aspiring woolclassers and able to talk to registered people.”

The wool industry had a new influx of markets and goods being made with wool so job prospects for the students was really good, he said.

New Zealand Woolclassers Association executive officer Bruce Abbott.

Association executive officer Bruce Abbott said a mixture of people were registered for the day, including shearing contractors, buyers, brokers, breeders and industry speakers.

“It’s a showpiece day for members of the NWCA,” he said.

The full-day programme included wool exercises to guess the yield, micron, breed and oddment recognition of scores of wool samples, as well as key messages and broker information, and a tour of the New Zealand Sock Company in Ashburton.