Ulster Wool collections are up by around 13% for the season so far compared to the same period the year before.

It means the organisation’s graders will be extra busy during their peak season with an extra 31t of the fluffy stuff already in for processing.

Farmers who have not yet dropped off their wool are asked to phone ahead to book a time slot to avoid queues.

On average, Ulster Wool processes around 1.2 million kilos of wool a year from around 4,000 farmers – but the team has ambitions to increase this figure.

A busy week ahead

The busy season is expected to continue, with a 40ft lorry booked in for later in the week. It’s expected the truckload will bring around 7-8t of wool.

Things heat up in the wool grading centre as the summer shearing season gets underway.

During the last few weeks of May, the start of the season, the centre typically takes in 5-6t of wool a week. However, this week – one of the busiest for the centre – that figure rose to 91t.

Wool is sorted at the depot by Ulster Wool’s skilled seven full-time and three part-time staff into more than 100 different grades.

Selling the wool

It is then bagged and sold at a series of auctions run by British Wool and is considered among the best in the world for making carpet due to its course, hard-wearing properties.

Typically Ulster Wool’s auction system pays 30% more compared to independent wool buyers. As well as taking wool from Northern Ireland producers, wool from southern farmers is also welcome.

Depot manager Jayne Harkness-Bones said presentation played a large part in the amount paid for the wool.

She urged farmers not to sit on stocks of wool and to bring it in regularly.

“We can tell when we go back through our records we can see maybe four or five years when a farmer hasn’t brought in any wool and then suddenly there’s a lot brought in all at once,” she said.

If that’s stored properly that’s not a problem. But it’s like potatoes – the longer you store it the less it will be worth. You’re better bringing it in when the lanolin is still fresh and oily.

“The worst thing that can happen is it gets wet.

“Well-handled wool comes rolled up into balls; they almost roll out on to the table when the sheets are opened and it makes it easier for the graders to see what they are working with.

“The more efficient it is to process, the more we can put back into the industry.”

This weekend Ulster Wool’s Muckamore depot will begin the first of its extended weekend opening hours. Farmers can call to book a place between 8:00am and 12:30pm from this Saturday onwards.