In the sheep world, Ryelands are often referred to as “teddy bear sheep”. The reason for this, as you might have guessed, is their striking resemblance to roly poly teddy bears. Most sheep have wool only on their backs, with their faces, tummies and legs remaining almost bare. The Ryeland however has wool all over and can cause shearers to go a little pale. It can be tricky to shear those woolly faces, tummies and legs and it takes longer too.
One of our jobs in making sure our Ryelands are happy and healthy is to keep their bottoms and faces trimmed. During the summer months it’s especially important to keep their bottoms neat because woolly bottoms attract flies and flies are bad news for sheep, especially the blow flow. We don’t use chemicals on our little lot so we take special care to keep their rear ends spick and span at all times.
We also keep their faces trimmed. If we don’t trim around their eyes, they can become ‘wool blind’ (where the wool grows around their eyes preventing them from seeing). Being ‘wool blind’ makes sheep unhappy as they like to be able to see what’s happening around them in order to feel safe. Sheep have surprisingly good vision, they can see all around them, almost 360 degrees. If they have wool growing around their eyes they can get nervous and twitchy because they lose the ability to check for predators which is an important part of being a sheep.
It’s a lot of work trimming all those faces and bottoms, (and not to mention hooves), so we rotate through the flock each week and work on three or four at a time. Yesterday it was Yaar, Seline, Scarlett and Vera’s turn for hair cuts.
Adrian and I have got a little hair salon set up in the orchard, we put together some hurdles and bring the sheep in one at a time. They seem to quite enjoy it and we have no trouble bringing them in. It’s a good opportunity for us to catch up with the flock and spend quality time with our teddies.