Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Do the Sheep Mind It?"

Today we had 66 sheep shorn. They are due to lamb beginning in about a month, and there are a couple basic reasons we shear now, in the bleak midwinter:

1) Wool Quality. Lambing is stressful for the sheep, and affects the wool quality. You can literally map the stressors in a sheep's life by examining her wool under a microscope (so I'm told). We choose to have the stress of lambing show up near the end of the wool clip, not in the middle.

2) Lamb Livability. Lambs do their best to find mama's milk, but they aren't really all that high I.Q. when they're fresh and new. They'll suck on anything that hangs down. If it happens to be a piece of wool, they'll keep on trying and trying and trying. Then they'll die of starvation and/or cold. We don't want that. We make sure the only thing hanging down is their mama's udder.

Also, ewes with a great big wool coat tend not to feel the cold. They seem to assume that their lambs are fine, too. Ewes that feel a little bit of the cold will lay next to their lambs, which keeps the lambs warm.

Nick gets paid for each sheep he shears. He works fast. It's hard to get a good photo of him. This one'll have to do.

I don't work so fast, but I do have to keep up with Nick. So my hands are a bit of a blur, too. Here I've laid out the fleece, and am "skirting" it--picking out the yucky parts (bits of hay and dredlocks and manure).

We were quite busy with visitors today. We estimate around 50 people came and watched and learned more about wool and sheep.

One mom with kids asked, "Do the sheep mind it?" I laughed and replied, "Do you see how fast they get up and run off when they're done with their haircut? That tells me that yes, they do mind it. But it also tells me that we haven't hurt them any."

Another satisfying P.R. day. Wish I knew what to do with all this wool...


  1. So how about teaching me how to card and spin some of that wool???? Oh, that's right; I'm in California..... :(

  2. Very cool Lona! Great pictures.


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