With the holidays just around the corner, Santa has a new, unique gift option for Nevada Wolf Pack fans that is homegrown, literally. The University of Nevada, Reno is offering a new line of Nevada Wolf Pack wool products made from Rafter 7 sheep raised by the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.
Hats, scarves, blankets, sweaters, hoodies, beanies and more will be available at the Nevada Wolf Shop on campus beginning this Thursday, Nov., 17, with prices ranging from $24 to $300. But, it’s not just the fact that the products were made from the University’s Rafter 7 sheep raised in Eureka, Nevada, at the University’s Great Basin Research & Extension Center, that make the products special. The wool itself is special.
“These sheep are known to have some of the softest, finest wool in the nation. They are even known internationally,” said Bill Payne, Dean of the College. “We are excited that, after developing this line of sheep over 30 years ago, we are able to offer Nevadans the opportunity to proudly wear and enjoy some Silver and Blue products made from their wool.”
Payne said the Rafter 7 line of Merino sheep was developed in the 1990s by the College’s Experiment Station, under the direction of the late Hudson Glimp, professor emeritus of the College, and Tom Filbin, herd manager from which the original Rambouillet seed stock was purchased. A herd of Rafter 7 Merino and Merino/Rambouillet sheep are now produced at the University’s Great Basin Research & Extension Center in Eureka. The Center addresses challenges such as herd genetics and management, water conservation in cropping, and range management and restoration. Some of the sheep raised there have sold at auction for as much as $3,100 per head.
“One of the unsolicited statements I heard from three or four buyers from Nevada and other states was how much the Rafter 7 Merino sheep program has helped improve wool quality and economics for the range sheep industry, and how appreciative they are that the University has stepped in to carry this breeding program forward,” said Gary McCuin, director of the Center.
This is the first time that the University has had products made from the Rafter 7 wool. Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Wyoming, a family-operated mill dedicated to supporting local ranchers in the West and raising awareness about ranching culture, was commissioned to make the yarn and the products. The University chose the company because they are one of the few manufacturers in the West with experience in making wool products from fine, “homegrown” wool, and they use environmentally friendly cleaners and vegetable-based spinning oil in their process. Eco-friendly manufacturing practices are used to help the wool retain its natural lanolin, resulting in soft, luxurious wool products.
It’s a bit ironic that such soft wool comes from sheep raised in such a harsh environment as the Great Basin, Payne said.
“The Rafter 7 sheep are actually very well adapted to the harsh, dry Great Basin environment,” Payne said. “That’s one of the things the College is trying to do with its work and research – provide animals and crops that can be raised in challenging environments, such as those we have here in Nevada. Hopefully the work we do here can be applied in other parts of the world.”
In the meanwhile, some Nevadans will have an opportunity to get a very special gift from Santa this year. Amy Lewis, store director at the Nevada Wolf Shop on campus, advises those wanting to purchase any of the Rafter 7 wool products to shop early.
“This being the first-ever run of the Rafter 7 wool items, we will have a very limited supply this year,” she said. “But, we are so excited to be able to carry them. These products are really special because they are truly local. We are proud that decades of research by our staff and students resulted in these top-quality Nevada Wolf Pack items that we have the privilege of showcasing in our store.”
Proceeds from the sale of the Rafter 7 wool items will support University student activities and future Rafter 7 projects. For more information on the availability of the items, call the Shop at 775-784-6597. The Shop is located in the University’s Joe Crowley Student Union, 87 W. Stadium Way. Hourly parking is available for $2 on the first level of the nearby Brian Whalen Parking Complex. Shop hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The shop is closed on all University-observed holidays, including Thanksgiving through Sunday, Nov. 27.