Manila, Philippines – Biological wool harvesting is the new technology developed in Australia using a protein called “Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) produced by a soy sauce manufacturer in Japan.
After an injection of the protein to the sheep, the sheep are dressed in a sort of body tube to keep the wool in place until fleece removal is safe for the animal. An injection of the protein to the sheep causes a natural break in the wool fibers just below the skin surface allowing the fleece to be harvested after four weeks. The fleeces can be harvested all in one piece without shears; no nicks, no cuts, and no bleeding. The method is recommended for Merino sheep 10 months of age and younger.
Sheep used to shed their fleeces naturally, but this characteristic was lost, mostly as a result of breeding for larger fleece harvests. The protein, first identified in 1951, is a growth factor naturally present in many animals including sheep. Removing the fleece from sheep by manual shearing accounted for 23 percent of the direct costs to wool growers in Australia, and also because of the scarcity of skilled shearers, a research has been under way for a quicker, cheaper alternative.
By the mid 1990s, technological development had delivered an injectable product that produced a complete break in the fleece. However, it has taken another decade of developmental work before this method to be perfected.
The technology reduces animal stress, and enables the harvest of more top quality wool. The technique increases the number of fleeces that a shearer and an assistant can harvest in a day from 120 to 300.