The Woolly Shepherd was started with the aim of utilizing what was then waste wool from the Blackdown Hills and the surrounding areas. Wool prices were low and farmers were burning fleeces because disposal was expensive and they were unable to cover the cost of shearing.
Since then, wool prices have risen steadily and look set to remain high for a while. This has been driven by a number of mostly international factors out of the control of small farmers and smallholders in the southwest.
Wool is a global commodity and comes usually as a waste product on the back of lamb meat sales. Lamb prices have been driven up in producer countries like New Zealand by the increasing incomes of people in China, so that fewer animals reach shearing stages before slaughter. In addition, more people are wearing wool as natural fibres become fashionable again and more Asian consumers have the funds to pay for it.
This shift in economic patterns caused us to look again at our raw material and what we might make from it – returning us to the basic attributes of wool in order to develop our business in a new direction. This is where we really started looking at concentrating on acoustics, felting and manufacturing felted products.