Now before I walk you through the process of Shearing, many people want to initially know why in the world are we shearing in some of the coldest months of the year. To some it seems counterproductive I mean they sheep have wool to stay warm & now we are just cutting it off.
Here are a few reasons why we shear in January. Most importantly is we also begin to lamb at the end of January & our 1st prorirty is to grow & raise healthy lambs. This is best when the mother is sheared. It prevents infection from happening. Let's be realistic it gets a bit messy giving birth. The less wool on the sheep, the less mess remains on the Sheep & has a chance of creating infection.
2nd. Milk. The baby has an easier time finding mommas milk, if there isn't a lot of wool in the way. The easier they can find milk, the more they drink the healthier they become. Healthy lambs is what we love.
Now onto Shearing. We don't do any of our own shearing. We hire it out. There is a skill & system to shearing sheep & we don't have it. However we know of a few crews that do. So we hire a shearing crew. They come, campout out & shear for however many days it takes, & then load up & take off.
So here we go . . ..
Now there is always some Ewes that don't follow the plan, & decide to have the babies before shearing time, So we have to take those of out the Lambing shed, shear & then return the right momma to the right baby. Here are some nice Ewes ready to be loaded into the trailer.
This is the chute into the Shearing Wagon. If you notice there is 2 levels. There is a little hole on top & then a another hole underneath. The sheep are standing on a chute on the highest level. I will explain in a minute what the other level is for. Here they are standing in line waiting.
These next pictures are a little rough, I apologize. This is the inside of a shearing trailer. You have a 5 to 6 man crew. They spend 8 hours a day shearing sheep as fast as they can. They lay them down a certain way & for the most part the wool comes off in one large piece.
This is the end of the line to wait for being sheared. This one looks proud to me.
And a close up of its wooly face.
More of the shearing . They have an precise way they do it. The sit them a certain way & follow a pattern. Every time & they are fast. Really a fast. It is noisy, but kind of fun to watch.
They open the door on the right, & shear them, once they are sheared. To the left (on the other side of the trialer is a door.) They can simply push open.
This is the other side of the shearing trailer. The side the sheared sheep come out.
The shearer opens they door & the sheep think for a moment if they truly want to come back out into the cold.
Sometimes it might take a little encouragement, but eventually they run out.
And join up with all the others. Now, a brief moment to mention a few things. This doesn't hurt the ewe, (okay they might get nicked with the clippers, just like when anyone else is shaving), but really it is just a haircut. As for now are they going to get cold. Yes, they might. After the ewes are sheared we keep them in a pen where they can be out of the wind & elements a little more. Sheep produce what is called Lanolin, on their wool. It is a little greasy, but it was helps the moisture stay off & keep them protected. After shearing it takes them a couple of days to produce the lanolin to recover their wool. Once they have that lanolin back on them, they are fine.
Okay now back to the other side of the shearing process.
We are back to loading side of the table. Remember how I pointed out the 2 slits you could call them in the trailer. The sheep are standing on the top one & the bottom one is where the shearer pushes out the wool to the graders.
The men grab the wool & put it on the skirting tables. This is where they skirt the wool & also grade it. Wool has different grades. They grade the wool & sort it accordingly.
After the wool is graded & skirted, it is handed off to this man. Who with his big 'ole machine stuffs the wool bags full of wool.
Stuffed full. Look at all that nice warm wool. Okay so it needs washed. This fancy machine, pushes & stuffs the bags full.
Once these babies are full we line them up.
And remember these babies. . . .
Those few babies that had to come before shearing season. They wait patiently in the jugs & make a new friend or two while it all happens.
Eventually the mommas return, just a little smaller. They are sorted back into the proper pen with their babies.
The babies are back with clean mommas, easier milk to find, & the rest of the sheep get sheared. We continue this process for however many days it takes.
One the job is finished, the Shearing Crew packs up & moves to the next job. And we have just survived our 1st shearing!!
Thanks for joining us on a little glimpse of our love of lambs & shearing.