Global wool production is about 1.3 million tonnes per year, of which 60% goes into apparel. Australia is the leading producer of wool which is mostly from Merino sheep. New Zealand is the second-largest producer of wool, and the largest producer of crossbred wool. China is the third-largest producer of wool. Breeds such as Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, and Elliotdale produce coarser fibers, and wool from these sheep is usually used for making carpets.
In the United States, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have large commercial sheep flocks and their mainstay is the Rambouillet (or French Merino). Also, a thriving home-flock contingent of small-scale farmers raise small hobby flocks of specialty sheep for the hand-spinning market. These small-scale farmers offer a wide selection of fleece. Global woolclip (total amount of wool shorn) 2004/2005
- Australia: 25% of global woolclip (475 million kg greasy, 2004/2005)
- China: 18%
- United States: 17%
- New Zealand: 11%
- Argentina: 3%
- Turkey: 2%
- Iran: 2%
- United Kingdom: 2%
- India: 2%
- Sudan: 2%
- South Africa: 1%
Organic wool is becoming more and more popular. This wool is very limited in supply and much of it comes from New Zealand and Australia. It is becoming easier to find in clothing and other products, but these products often carry a higher price. Wool is environmentally preferable (as compared to petroleum-based nylon or polypropylene) as a material for carpets, as well, in particular when combined with a natural binding and the use of formaldehyde-free glues.
Animal rights groups have noted issues with the production of wool, such as mulesing.