Last Saturday our longtime sheep shearer—who thankfully hasn't retired yet—arrived at the farm about 9am and sheared 33 of our 42 sheep, 20 of whom are pregnant. Lambing season will start around the first of March, and you can learn why we now shear the sheep before lambing season here.
Ten-year-old Silly, the oldest member of our flock (all my really old pet sheep have died), didn't need the stress of being sheared in the middle of winter (we'll shear her ourselves in a few months), and the other eight are Katahdin hair sheep, which don't need to be sheared. You can read more about how and why we added Katahdins to our flock four years ago here.
The shearer left about four hours later with payment of $6 per sheep, plus a tip and half a batch of Nigella's big chocolate chip cookies. Despite this being the earliest we've ever sheared (we were his first sheep of the year!), we lucked out and only had to reschedule once. We'd planned to shear Friday, but the sheep weren't dry from Wednesday's rain, and you can't shear wet sheep.
Lots more below. . .
On Saturday morning, I was surprised that the outsides of their coats were still a little damp, despite them having slept in the barn Friday night, but we went ahead and sheared anyway. We have the flock split into two groups (pregnant and not pregnant), and we put the non-pregos out in the sun behind the barn to help dry them off while they waited for their turn.
The weather after shearing can cause problems, too. The first three or four days after the sheep are sheared are the most critical, especially during winter, and it's important to keep them warm and dry. Freezing rain is the worst, and that's exactly what arrived just as we finished up last year. The entire flock ended up having to live in the barn for three days. Nobody was happy.
Thankfully this past week has been weirdly mild (mid-60s in late January!), with only a few frosty nights and no rain until yesterday. The shorn sheep are all doing great, and we only had a few mild cases of sunburn.
Below are scenes from sheep shearing day 2012. For answers to lots of sheep shearing questions, including what we do with all the wool (which currently isn't much), check out this 2010 sheep shearing post. And you'll find all of the previous sheep shearing posts here.
The colored marks on the backs of the sheep are from the marking crayons we use when working the sheep, so we can keep track of who's already been worked.
And speaking of wool, do any of you spinners, knitters, crafters, or fellow sheep farmers know of a good place that cleans and cards wool for a reasonable price? And have you ever had any wool processed so that it could be used to stuff pillows or in quilts? You can leave a comment below or email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!
Lucky Buddy Bear's weirdest habit—he loves to lick the barn.
It's my baby Cary!
She only looks pregnant.
Down to the final four, except for the rams (Ava on the left is a Katahdin).
Note Marta Beast in back guarding her freshly shorn sheep.
We shear the rams last.
Time for the I Survived Shearing Day treats!
There's a lot more room around the treat troughs now.
© FarmgirlFare.com, the close cropped foodie farm blog where the sheep always feel better after having their itchy coats cut off, but they aren't nearly as cuddly after being shorn—and there's a lot less safety padding when they knock you around during feeding time. But at least they're still really cute—and it's easier to give them a good scratch on the neck, which some of them really love.