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Fibres obtained from animals are - wool and silk.
Let us discuss about wool. Wool is the animal fibre. Wool comes mostly from sheep. It was the first fibre to be spun into yarn, and it provides more warmth than other animal fibres.
Animals that Yield Wool: Apart from sheep, wool also comes from the angora goat, yak, llama, alpaca, and even camels. All these animals have a thick coat of hair or fleece, which keeps them warm. Wool is obtained from this fleece.
Sheep wool is more commonly available in India. In Tibet and Ladakh, yak wool is more common, whereas in Jammu and Kashmir, it is the angora wool. The famous Pashmina shawls come from the soft under fur of the Kashmiri goat.
In South America, the llama and the alpaca yield wool.
Wool from sheep: Sheep hair is formed by two types of fibres – the coarse beard hair and the fine soft under-hair, which is close to the skin. This fine hair provides the fibre to make wool.
Sheep Rearing: Sheep rearing is a branch of animal husbandry. Sheep are reared mainly for their meat, wool, and milk.
You must have seen the flocks of grazing sheep in the fields. Sheep are herbivores and prefer grass and leaves. However, shepherds also feed them mixtures of pulses, corn, jowar, oil cakes and minerals. In winter, they are fed leaves, grain and dry fodder.
In India sheep are reared in the hills of Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh, and in the plains of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Selective Breeding: Selective breeding is a process of selecting the parents for obtaining special characters in the offspring. Selective breeding is done to have sheep with soft hair.
The Nali and Lohi breeds are found in Rajasthan and Punjab, the Rampur bushair in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, and the Bakharwal in Jammu and Kashmir. Gujarat breeds the Marwari and Patanwadi sheep.
Each breed yields wool used for different purposes.
• Nali breed wool is used to make carpet wool.
• Patanwadi wool is used for hosiery.
• Lohi wool is of very good quality, and is used for making clothes.
• Bakharwal wool is used for shawls.
Processing Fibres into Wool: The process of making fibres into wool follows – shearing, scouring, sorting, cleaning of burrs, dyeing, straightening, combing and finally rolling into yarn.
Shearing: Shearing is the first step in processing fibre into wool. It is the removal of the fleece of the sheep along with a thin layer of the skin.
Generally sheep are sheared in warm weather, usually spring, as they don’t require their woolly coats to keep them warm.
Shearing is done with the help of mechanical shears and is usually done by hand. Shearing doesn’t hurt the sheep as the uppermost layer of the skin is dead.
Scouring: Scouring is the process of washing the sheared hair. The woollen fibres are thoroughly washed in big tanks to remove grease, dust and dirt by fully mechanized machines.
Sorting: Sorting is done after scouring to separate hair of different textures and types. This is to separate the low and good quality fibres.
Some parts of the sheep’s coat have better hair than others. This good quality wool from the shoulders and sides of the sheep is used for clothing, while the more inferior quality comes from the lower legs, and is used to make rugs. The fleece is sorted according to its texture and type.
Dyeing: Picking out of any remaining burrs (small fluffy fibres) is followed by the dyeing of fibres in various colours.
Since the natural fibres are mostly black, brown or white in color they can be dyed in various colours.
Straightening, Combing and Rolling: Once the dyeing process is complete, the fibres are straightened, combed and rolled into yarn. Longer fibres are made into wool for sweaters, while the shorter fibres are spun and woven into woollen cloth.
Occupational Hazards: Workers in wool industry face occupational hazards. Risks that can be life threatening to workers due to their occupation are called occupational hazards. They get infected by a bacterium called anthrax, which causes a fatal blood disease called sorter’s disease.