Shearing Day 2016 dawned cold and with a fresh layer of snow. As we made the final preparations, we felt a misty rain begin. Not exactly what we'd hoped for--on Shearing Day we'd rather not have ice and we'd rather not have mud. But we don't get to choose the weather. The show must go on.
We had approximately 100 pregnant ewes to shear, and this is what they looked like while they waited for their turn.
Timothy sheared for us again this year. We hire this job out to people who are skilled at this task. He makes it look easy. Trust me. It's not.
The ewes took their turns being queued up and waiting in the chute.
We shear just before lambing for two main reasons: lamb survival and wool quality. When the lambs are born, it is cold yet in Michigan. If the ewe has her full coat on, the lamb can't benefit from the body heat of the ewe (and perhaps the ewe doesn't even think about that the lamb might be cold--she's fine!). In addition, the lambs will suck on nearly anything, and a clean-clipped ewe makes it easier for the lamb to find her udder, instead of a dirty bit of wool, which gives no milk.
As for the wool quality, pregnancy and lactation is hard on a ewe. The wool will often have a weak spot in the wool fibers where this stage of growth happens. If we clip near the end of pregnancy, the weak spot will be at the cut end of the wool, and any breakage will happen very near the end, leaving fibers 3-5" long. If the weak spot happened in the middle of the wool fiber's growth, we end up with much shorter fibers, due to the breakage. Long is better than short, when it comes to wool.
This year we had between 250-300 people attend our shearing day. Our work crew (many return each year to help) was amazing.
There were lambs to hold and lots to look at. I think most people had a good time.
If you missed it this year, no worries. We do it every year. Mark your calendars now for the first Saturday in March of 2017. See you then!