Wool Classer

Kaimāhiti Wūru

Alternative titles for this job

Wool classers sort wool into categories. They ensure wool is clean, identified and documented for sale.

Pay

Wool classers are paid per fleece and usually earn

$50-$60 per hour

Source: NZWCA and MPI, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a wool classer are average because the occupation is small.

Pay

Pay for wool classers varies depending on skills, experience and the type of wool classing. 

  • Wool classers are usually paid per fleece, and earn between $50 and $60 an hour, or about $400 per day.

Sources: New Zealand Wool Classers Association, 2019; and Ministry for Primary Industries, 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Wool classers may do some or all of the following:

  • sort wool into groups that have uniform colour, length, fault, and fibre diameter, and keep wool breeds separate
  • ensure wool is free from contamination
  • operate and maintain sampling, wool-weighing and wool-blending machinery
  • supervise the pressing and branding of wool bales
  • keep records of wool bales pressed
  • be responsible for woolshed management.

Skills and knowledge

Wool classers need to have knowledge of:

  • wool-evaluation
  • different wool grades and sheep breeds
  • wool-handling and woolshed procedures
  • operating wool presses and other machinery
  • market requirements for wool, and wool industry standards.

Working conditions

Wool classers:

  • work from 7am to 5pm weekdays and fine weekends in the main shearing season
  • work mainly in shearing sheds or in wool stores and wool-cleaning factories
  • work in conditions that may be dirty, dusty, noisy and greasy 
  • may travel long distances to farms.

What's the job really like?

Diane Chilcott

Wool Classer

Merino wool is Diane's passion. "I just love working with the fibre, being involved in wool growth and development, working as part of a team in a woolshed, and understanding the process of yarn through to garment manufacture."

Wool classing demanding but also rewarding

Diane has worked in the wool industry for 25 years and has been a wool classer for most of that time.

"Classing in a woolshed is a great life. It's hard work mentally and physically, but immensely satisfying.

"We start work early, when it's still dark, doing two-hour-long runs before stopping to rest and refuel. We continue like that until it's time to go home, usually in the dark. We do that every day for as long as the season lasts – it gets pretty challenging."

Satisfaction comes from helping farmers get top dollar for their wool

"I get a real sense of achievement when the client earns top price at the wool market for their wool clip, and I know that I've played a major part in that outcome. That is really what the job is – maximising your clients' income through your knowledge and skills."

Wool classer video

Trish Moki Ludlow talks about what it's like to be a wool classer – 3.33mins.

I'm Trish Moki Ludlow. I'm an in-shed North Island wool classer. My job is to class the micron, which is the fineness of the wool, where the lower the micron the finer the wool. I also class for colour, which we see as a fault, so we remove any colour to keep the line nice and even. So length and colour are the two biggest things I look for as a wool classer. We want to prepare consistent lines. If you were to come into my wool shed you would see a display of consistent lines. You would see an even prepared line length, and you would see two or three of those. And when you look at the wool bin itself with the fleeces in you'll see that it looks all the same. You'd move along down my wool lines and you would see I've removed colour to keep that money line even. So you're ticking off the off types to keep that money line even for the farmer.

I've had 25 years as an all-breeds wool handler in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, so I understand the job itself. So I've gone from a wool handler, and I've stepped up, and I've done a 2 year course and now I'm a classer and I enjoy it. I can't thing of anything else better to do.
An important focus as a wool classer is to have good communication with your whole team. You need this because you're preparing wool for commercial sale. You're trying to make good returns for the farmer. You're putting out a thousand sheep a day. You want consistently prepared, even wool lines. So I need to have good communication with everyone. My wool presser – he's the one that puts the wool in the packs behind me. He is just the glue to the team. The wool handling team are there to prepare all the wool. It's a very physical job, and as long as you can communicate with them and respect them because they contribute immensely to the end product and to the wool bales.

It's so satisfying at the end of the day for everyone. You know you've done a good job and when I check off my last bale in the documentation book – the wool bale log – I'm just relieved and satisfied we've done a great job. You know, you get paid to do what you love. I couldn't want more than that. I love the team environment and the team spirit. I like to think I get up and I work with my family. You just thrive on getting out there.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a wool classer. However, to be a fine wool classer you need to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Wool Technology (Level 4).

A driver's licence is also useful. 

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science to at least NCEA Level 2 is useful.

Personal requirements

Wool classers need to be:

  • practical and fast
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • good at communicating and leading teams
  • well organised and good at record-keeping.

Useful experience

Useful experience for wool classers includes any work with a shearing gang, such as woolhandling or pressing.

Physical requirements

Wool classers need to:

  • be reasonably fit
  • have good eyesight
  • have a good sense of touch.

Registration

Registration with the New Zealand Wool Classer Association (NZWCA) is preferred by employers. Wool classers who aren't financially registered can't use the NZWCA stamp on bales.

Find out more about training

Primary Industry Training Organisation
0800 208020 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz

 

Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Opportunities for wool classers small

Chances of getting a job as a wool classer are average because the occupation is small and people usually stay in the job for a long time.

Getting a qualification can increase your chances

To work on fine wool sheep farms you need to complete a National Certificate in Wool Technology (Level 4) from the Southern Institute of Technology. 

Seasonal work

Wool classers usually only work for six months during the peak shearing season from June to November.

Self-employment common among wool classers

Many wool classers work as independent contractors.

Others may work as permanent employees or on annual contracts for:

  • bulk wool stores
  • wool merchants
  • freezing works
  • wool scours.

The New Zealand Wool Classers Association estimates that 90% of wool classers are employed in the South Island.

Sources

  • Abbott, B, executive officer, New Zealand Wool Classers Association, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019. 
  • Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Situation and outlook for primary industries, March 2019', accessed May 2019, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
  • Stats NZ, 'Agricultural Production Statistics', June 2018, (www.stats.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Wool classers may move into management roles in:

  • wool-buying companies
  • wool-exporting companies
  • large-scale wool product manufacturers.

Wool classers may specialise in classing fine wool or crossbred wool.

A wool classer sorting through wool

Wool classers evaluate and grade wool for sale

Last updated 20 June 2019