Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shearing - Round One

Lambing season starts in about four weeks.  The bred ewes in the flock need to be shorn before any of that activity.  We usually try to watch the weather for a break in the cold but this winter it isn't happening.  It seems mean to shear an animal when it's this cold but they have fewer health problems from being a bit chilly than from being too hot and being rolled around when more heavily pregnant.  Plus, being ruminants sheep have a built in heat generating plant that keeps them warmer than we'd think.  Of course, if there were no shelter for them it would indeed be very cruel to shear now and they'd suffer mightily

Our shearer does a great job but can usually only handle 25-30 of our big girls in a session.  Yesterday we did the first batch and he managed 22 before having to quit for the day.  It doesn't help scheduling that he has his own flock so his chore time has to be taken into account.  Brian was intrumental in developing the STAR system of lambing and he just finished a big group in his flock and has some bummer lambs to tend to along with regular chores.

We did all Cotswolds this time.  They are big and heavy even when not pregnant.  We want to get them done first.  Between our good hay feeders and the fact that most of this group are friendly and like me to pick hay out of the wool on their backs fuss over them they have stayed pretty darn clean.

There's a lot of wool on one of these girls.  (She's not really yellow - it's the wonky light in the barn)
This one doesn't mind the process much at all.  Some are more of a challenge.
And they were much more comfortable afterwards.

We can roll the big doors closed and keep the barn shut up pretty well.  It's the worst thing to do most of the time - sheep are prone to respiratory problems when the air is humid and bedding pack is deep - but for a few days when it's below freezing it's OK.  Last night it was 3 degrees outside when we checked the barn at bedtime but 18 inside. It still sounds awfully cold to be naked but the sheep were all busily chowing down on some nice hay and nobody seemed uncomfortable.  This AM they were standing in a group chewing their cuds and looked pretty unconcerned.  You can see the bedding is all churned up where they dug down a bit to make a "nest" in the pack during the night.

After tending the ewes in the lower barn we trekked to the upper barn where the rams are housed. They won't be shorn till later this spring, probably after lambing.  That barn is harder to close up for protection from the cold and really there's no great need to get them done now so they can wait.  They are quite content to be inside.  This is the extent of someone's foray outside.
 "Maybe I'll go over by the trees and see, guess I'll go back in."

Young Neville was very content to sit in the sun.  It wasn't giving any warmth but was cheerful.  I saw udders started on some of the ewes we had him with last fall so it looks like he managed his task.

The next shearing date is this coming Tuesday.  The weather isn't predicted to be any warmer but it's reassuring to see the first batch of sheep handling the cold well.

"I'm going to sit right here and watch for spring, Mom."
Thanks, Holly.  Let me know the second you see it.


  1. Great shot of Holly! I haven't had time to even go through my pictures yet. Maybe this evening... Wish I could have been there for shearing. You had some awful pretty fleeces walking around :-).

  2. Oooh, I bet that is some beautiful fleece! I am always amazed at how sturdy and hearty sheep are. I have two Icelandics who can weather anything. However, I am very jealous of how clean your sheep's fleeces are!

  3. The evidence of that short trip outside is so very like our little Magic. You put her coat on, shove her out the door and she might get a few feet from the door before she does her business, then wants right back in.