Yesterday was the first of three shearing days. It’s always an exciting time. We spend a year waiting for the fleece to come off – it’s our crop. Our neighbour grows barley and oats – we grow wool. It’s also the first time we get a really good look at the last season’s lambs to assess the quality and send handfuls off for testing. I’m looking at all sorts of things visually but the only way to REALLY understand the fleece is to have a full technical assessment from a fibre laboratory. Fine fibre growing is nonsense without this.
My poor shearer was struggling with the tail end of flu yesterday and took things very steadily. The Lister shearing machine was on its lowest setting – better for the fleece and less noise and vibration . The consequence was totally spaced out sheep! Everything was SO calm and laid back that several of them really dropped off and Raymond laid them down on the shearing board, flat out! The first time it happened we thought it was dead – but no – just totally chilled. It’s great to see that – we know we are causing minimum stress and particularly now when so many are 8 weeks off lambing, that’s crucial.
We were able to do a quick check on who is in lamb. It’s not possible to say for certain that a sheep is NOT in lamb at this point because lambing is over about a 6 week period, but it is clear who IS and is due in the early days. There is a small amount of udder development and when you get your eye in you can also see the tell tale bulge in the appropriate place. Most lamb growth takes place in the last six weeks of gestation but there’s certainly enough there to see.
For those who are looking for fleece – please be patient. I am selecting a few fleeces for display at Devon County Show where I have been asked to put on a Bowmont exhibit so I will not know what I have to spare until shearing is finished. We have another two days to go and they won’t be this week!
The curious Cashmere goat on the right is one of our yearling females who are spending the winter in this area of the barn. The goats are quite happy with the goings-on. Their turn will come in April when combing begins!
For those interested in my sheep pens – here they are! Finished! All ready for their newly shorn residents who will transfer probably at the weekend.