Saturday, October 3, 2009

In Pursuit of Cleaner Wool

There are a couple of things that cause wool to be itchy. Very dirty wool, commercially processed, is sometimes treated with acid to get all the yuck out. People react to that. That's one of the "itches" of wool.

The other is bits of hay. "Vegetable matter" or "VM" is the industry term used. Even with wonderful large machines to clean and card and spin the wool, bits of hay remain. Sometimes they are broken up into such small pieces by the processing that you can hardly see them. But you can feel them.

Because of this, we've made some changes in the way we feed at Shady Side Farm. All summer long, the sheep are on pasture. But when the snow flies, they come inside and are fed hay during the cold months. The backs of their necks are typically full of hay bits by the time they're shorn, and it's a shame.

Here's a photo of the feeder before:

And one of the feeder after we added white plastic:

They can now only each the hay from the lower part of the manger. Hopefully this will help.

And here's a glimpse of the feeder that runs the entire length of the barn. Off to the right is at least half a winter's worth of hay. It also stretches the entire length of the barn. The rest of the hay is up in the loft of Grandpa's barn across the road.

We'll be interested to see if this adjustment to the feeder helps with the "itches".


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  2. Looks like a great idea!

    Do you, also, blanket your sheep? The best fleeces I've seen have been from blanketed sheep. . .

  3. Coats or blankets are a great idea, Barbara. We have talked about blankets, but with 130 ewes, it's just cost prohibitive (and downright labor intensive! Picture us wrestling those coats on each ewe X 130)

    If this feeder modification still doesn't produce the results we are hoping for, we may consider coating a few. We don't have to have all perfect fleeces. We just want to cut down on the amount of hay bits.

    Last summer we really nailed the hay (and again this summer). High quality, little flaky leaves which are like candy to the sheep. None of this big coarse stemmy stuff. But the trade-off for this luscious hay is the VM. Always modifying...

  4. Sounds like a good idea. I had no idea about this stuff :P


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