Specification of wool qualities is critical to the operation of the global wool textile trade, and development of the wool market.
Since the early 1970s, Australia has revolutionised how wool is sampled and sold around the world. This includes wool presale sampling and auction sale systems, which ensure well-informed and efficient trading in three major selling centres.
Australia drove the development of most widely used wool measurement systems, including those for fibre diameter, staple length and staple strength. These are critical specifications for wool processors, as they determine wool processing potential.
Around 1.5 million bales are sampled and tested before sale each year in Australia.
The typical Australian sale lot is sold at auction with 23 individual quality specifications.
The finest bale of Merino wool produced in Australia averaged 11.0 microns in diameter when tested in 2016 – finer than most cashmere.
In 1970, Australia embarked on the Australian Objective Measurement Program, to modernise the manual ‘hands and eyes’ wool valuation and sale methods applied at the time.
Since that time Australia has been an integral contributor to the development of the global system for trading greasy wool, based around International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) test certificates.
Nearly all Australian wool is bought and sold with an IWTO test certificate. Each bale of wool is independently weighed, sampled and tested, and the resulting certificate reports the total number of bales tested, the yield of each bale, the characteristics of the wool and its mulesing status. While there may be minor differences in reporting systems between countries, almost all are now aligned using the IWTO system.
The Australian Wool Testing Authority hosts an analytics platform that contains up to date analytical information on: