Animal by-products: handling and treating wool and hair

How to minimise the risk of disease from animal wool and hair, register your site, and dispose of materials you don't want.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

Animal wool and hair are category 3 animal by-products (ABPs), which means they are low risk.

Find out more about ABP categories, storage, and labelling.

Find out about transporting ABPs.

Treated wool or hair

If you treat animal wool and hair using one of the 5 World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) methods, and it didn’t come from pigs, it is considered treated wool or hair.

You can sell treated wool or hair without restrictions.

The approved OIE methods for treating animal wool and hair are:

  • factory-washing it in a series of baths - first water, then soap with sodium hydroxide (soda) or potassium hydroxide (potash)
  • using slaked lime or sodium sulphide to chemically remove the hair
  • fumigating it in a hermetically sealed chamber for 24 hours, using formaldehyde
  • storing it at 37°C for 8 days, 18°C for 28 days or 4°C for 120 days - this can include journey times
  • industrially scouring it by immersing it in a water-soluble detergent held at 60–70°C

Untreated wool or hair

Any wool or hair which hasn’t been treated using 1 of the 5 OIE methods, or was taken during tanning, is considered untreated.

To minimise the risk of disease spreading from untreated wool or hair, you should:

  • never sell or move any wool or hair if it has any trace of faeces on it
  • make sure any animals the wool or hair comes from have no diseases

Registering your site for wool and hair

You must register your site with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) if you:

  • have an assembly point or drop off point for temporary storage or to handle untreated wool or hair
  • unpack and sort untreated wool or hair
  • wash and scour untreated wool or hair
  • compost untreated wool to make soil improver
  • treat wool and hair using any of the approved OIE methods

You don’t need to register if:

  • you handle your own animals’ wool or hair at your farm, but don’t treat it there
  • your site is a car park or lay-by where wool or hair is moved between vehicles on the same day it left one registered site to go to another
  • your site is already approved, eg for handling hides and skins
  • you’re transporting dry untreated wool and hair to a site that makes derived products that aren’t for feed

Treating wool and hair on your farm

If you want to treat wool and hair on your farm, you must make sure it’s kept away from livestock and feeding areas at all times.

Disposing of unwanted wool or hair

If you have no use for wool and hair, or it can’t be legally or safely sent to a treatment plant, you should dispose of it as quickly as possible.

You can do this by:

  • composting it on the farm it came from - with no need for APHA approval or registration
  • using any disposal method approved for category 3 ABPs
  • sending it to a landfill site
  • sending it to a separate and registered wool composting site

You can check if your disposal method is legal by talking to your local APHA office

If a notifiable disease breaks out

If there’s an outbreak of a notifiable disease, the APHA will tell all registered wool and hair sites about any new rules or restrictions that they’ve introduced.

Published 5 September 2014
Last updated 9 October 2014 + show all updates
  1. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. First published.