The Montana Wool Lab
About the Wool Lab
The mission of the Montana Wool Lab is to provide high-quality, prompt analytical services to sheep producers, the wool industry and wool researchers in Montana and across the United States, in order to help sheep producers improve fiber diameter and wool yield of their wool clip. The Wool Lab, situated under the Department of Animal and Range Sciences, supports the outreach efforts of the MSU Extension Sheep Program in serving producers and the industry by sampling, testing, and scouring wool clips and fleeces to benefit wool growers in Montana and across the country.
Scientists in the wool lab conduct scientific and practical research for the purpose of obtaining knowledge about wool and apply complete and accurate knowledge about wool to conduct wool schools; teach within the sheep production/practicum classes at the collegiate level, offer workshops to support and educate communities and youth through 4-H and FFA; and institute field service.
“The wool lab at MSU is the golden standard for genetic selection across the inter-mountain region. Montana producers are known across the United States for producing superior fineness, length, color, and uniformity each spring when their fleeces come to market. The cornerstone of this reputation is the ongoing research and information shared by MSU.”
- Larry Prager
Center of the Nation Wool, Inc.
Currently, the Montana Wool Lab is one of only two wool research and service laboratories in the United States. The lab analyzes wool from producers across the United States for fiber characteristics, such as diameter and staple length. These analyses are required for producers to enroll in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), the only American organization to offer United States sheep producers a proven genetic selection system to use to improve flock productivity and quality. Furthermore, seed stock producers are encouraged to have wool analyzed for possible purchasers so they know the wool quality of the animal, as wool is a moderately heritable trait.
Current collaborations with scientists and personnel at the University of Wyoming, New Mexico State University, University of Nevada, University of Minnesota, Texas A&M University, United States Department of Agriculture, United States Sheep Experiment Station, and National Sheep Industry Improvement Center have helped the Montana Wool Lab be a leader in fiber research in the United States.
Jim Drummond, shown above, was the Montana Wool Lab manager from 1951-1980.
The Montana Wool Lab was established with the help of sheep producers in Montana to serve the sheep industry. The Montana Legislature approved funding for a building and equipment in 1945. G Curtis Hughes was the lab's first supervisor and served from 1946-1950. Construction of the Wool Lab was completed in 1947.The Montana Wool Lab was incorporated into Montana State University’s Department of Animal and Range Sciences in the 1980s.