Montana House Bill 14 was signed into law in early May by Governor Greg Gianforte in a ceremony at the University of Montana. This signing was a huge win for Montana’s sheep producers, securing $5 million of funding to build a new Wool Lab on Montana State University’s Bozeman campus.
The remaining 1 million dollars for the project will be collected through fundraising efforts. The Montana Wool Lab is one of many projects funded through HB14.
The current Montana Wool Lab building sits on the north end of Bozeman’s campus on South 11th Avenue. The Montana Legislature approved funding to build the structure in 1945, with the completion of the current building in 1947.
The Montana Wool Lab is a research-oriented lab, serving sheep and wool producers. Research and testing provided allows sheep producers to enhance the genetics of their flock by improving wool traits. It is an integral part of sheep and wool research on campus, Extension outreach, and teaching.
The Montana Wool Lab is one of just a handful of wool testing labs left in the United States, processing nearly 15,000 samples per year from across the USA. This bill will allow for the Wool Lab to upgrade facilities and equipment, to provide more services and allow space for collaboration on research.
Unlike polyester and much of the clothing produced today, wool is a renewable, sustainable, biodegradable fiber. Sheep across Montana are shorn typically once per year, and the wool is then sold to be cleaned and turned into many different items. Different breeds of sheep grow wool with various qualities, making it useful for: coats, socks, blankets, insulation, suits, and a host of other products.
This investment in a new wool lab at MSU is a step forward in securing updated facilities to provide wool testing for sheep ranchers and research to continue to find additional uses for wool.