Yesterday was shearing day, an exciting day in the sheep calendar!
We look forward to shearing for so many reasons but the number one reason is sheep welfare. We really feel for our sheep as spring turns to summer. They get quite down in the dumps in hot weather, ours park themselves in their field shelter and barely move. They much prefer the fresher weather of early spring and late autumn when there is tasty grass to be nibbled, but it is still cool enough to forage without getting hot and bothered and pestered by flies.
Flies are a constant problem throughout the summer. They zoom in on faces and bottoms (which isn’t a problem in itself apart from being irritating), unless we’re talking about the dreaded Blow Fly. The Blow Fly, commonly known as the green bottle, seeks out damp places, (preferably with a hint of dung), on live flesh, on which to lay her eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow into the flesh which as you can imagine is very unpleasant and can be fatal if not caught in time.
Something else we need to look out for in the spring is sheep getting “cast”. Sometimes sheep roll over onto their sides to scratch an itch and end up on their backs like beetles with their legs waving in the air. Usually they can roll out of this position again, however if their wool is particularly heavy, as it is at this time of the year, they can be so weighed down by it that they can no longer right themselves. If stuck like this for too long the outlook is not good. This year we found Sparkle stuck on her back on a flattened pile of nettles in a little dip by the lambing shed. She was pretty shaken up when we found her, but luckily perked up within the hour. We stayed with her to make sure she was OK after getting her on her feet and during this time we watched her going from panting, to having a wee, to shaking herself, to walking about, to finally foraging and then cudding. This is why we check up on our flock three times a day and are always counting them.
So, there are many reasons we look forward to shearing, but in a nutshell, once they’re sheared they are fresher, perkier, less attractive to flies, and less prone to doing roly polys and getting stuck on their backs!
As a result, we are happy and more relaxed, and I haven’t even mentioned wool yet!
After shearing I have huge bags stuffed full of fleeces. I love nothing better than bags full of freshly sheared fleeces with that rich scent of lanolin wafting around and soft bounciness when you put your hand in. But most of all I look at those bags as being worlds full of potential and exciting things, new woolly projects I can get stuck into, my mind goes into a mini whirlwind just thinking about it!
This year shearing went really smoothly. We have a “small flock” shearer, Guy, who specialises in, you’ve guessed it, small flocks 😉
He comes along with his partner Dee who runs around getting fresh blades and oil and rolling up the wool. Meanwhile myself and Adrian make sure the sheep are where they should be. We pen them up in a mini coral made up of hurdles and once the shearer has finished one sheep we need to have the next one ready and waiting. Minimal time, minimal stress is our motto on shearing day. Easier said than done however, our sheep are normally easy to handle, but the atmosphere of shearing makes them quite frisky. Getting each sheep ready to post through to Guy was a little fraught at times, a couple of times we fell over and were baptised in dung, but this is all part of it. Despite feeling a little worse for wear by the end of the afternoon, it was a brilliant day and the sheep are happy little souls once more.