CHOTEAU, Mont. - The production of wool in the United States has been declining in recent years.
But that hasn't stopped Montana sheep producers as the Treasure State produces over 4 million pounds of wool each year.
Roughly 35-40 wool producers gathered in Choteau on May 4, 2021 to pool their wools together.
This day is set aside to sample, weigh and gather wool together to make sure it's sold for top dollar.
"This is a great way for smaller producers, like myself, I don't have a large folk of sheep. So, I don't have a large volume of wool to sell," Leah Johnson, executive secretary of the Montana Wool Growers Association, said.
This process makes Montana wool sell for a higher price and helps the economy.
"Montana benefits from our wool being bought on the open market. There is the opportunity that this wool could be sold to Canada, this wool could be sold to China and the best wool in the world is raised right here in Montana, and specifically probably this very pool," Pete Cornell, president of the Front Range Wool and Lamb Pool, said.
Here is how it works... The producers unload their wool and it's put on a machine that weights it. Then they burn a hole in the sack and get core and visual samples of the wool for testing.
"That sample is collected and is sent to the wool lab in Bozeman," Cornell said.
"They're not just people that come an unload their wool. They're people that are apart of this whole family," Cornell said.
If you look at the history of Montana and sheep producing, a lot of farms and ranches actually got their start in sheep producing as it gives you two products, meat and wool.
"Eat lamb and wear wool, that's what we like to say," Johnson said.
Cornell says almost everyone uses a percentage of wool in their daily life.
"I'm proud to be a sheep raiser in the state of Montana," Cornell said.
Montana producers are even helping the men and women who serve.
"Service uniforms are made out of Montana wool," Cornell said.
"They source a lot of wool from Montana. The Rocky Mountain region is known for producing a really nice fine wool that is great for suits and things that military members use," Johnson said.
So, what would Montana do if the industry was gone? Cornell answered with a question of his own.
"Well, I mean what are you going to wear in the winter? We all know how cold MT gets in the winter time and if you ain't got warm wool socks to put on or a wool cap or wool mittens, it's going to be mighty cold," Cornell said.