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It Takes A Village

January 25, 2010

Well, maybe not a village, but it takes a whole bunch of folks to get all of the sheep sheared in a few hours.

Sue's brother, Glen, and twin sister, Cindy, helped us collect and skirt the wool

What? Shearing our pregnant ewes in the middle of winter? We were honored that Lisa and Linda of Living Kitchen Farm stopped by for a visit, and Lisa asked just that question. Here’s why we shear the ewes a month before lambing:

  1. It helps us make sure the girls are getting just the right amount of calories during the critical time when the fetus(es) are finishing development. We need to make sure the mamas-to-be aren’t too fat or too thin. Too fat, and we may have problems with milk fever or poor lactation. Too thin, and the ewe may go down from ketosis.
  2. A ewe that is in full fleece can’t feel her lambs underneath her and may accidentally lay on one.
  3. Shorn ewes are more likely to deliver their lambs in a sheltered area rather than an open field in the middle of an ice storm.
  4. It is much easier for a newborn lamb to find the milk faucet (teat) if they don’t have to wade through 4-5″ of fleece to get to the udder.

    Nephew Tyler grabs the next candidate for a haircut and moves her to the holding chute

The ewes aren’t shorn completely ‘slick,’ instead, the clippers leave about 1/2″ of wool growth on them. With the nasty winter weather poised to move into Oklahoma on Wednesday, we make sure the girls have access to the barn and extra room in the hoophouse. In a couple of weeks, they will have enough wool regrowth to be fine in almost any weather, and they will often choose to be outside instead of in the shelter available to them.

It's hard to see the sheep in this pic, but isn't that a beautiful 'true black' fleece?

Even though it’s very hard work, I always enjoy shearing day. It’s nice to get confirmation of who is bred and who is not–much easier to see the ewes whose udders are starting to fill (the technical term is ‘bagging up’) once the wool is off. It’s good to check for any parasite issues and treat those who need it, since the last month before lambing is when a ewe is at her most vulnerable. We also trim hooves and look for any signs of foot rot. Finally, we booster the ewes’ annual vaccinations at this time so that their newborn lambs will benefit from a higher titer of antibodies in mama’s colostrum.

Cyrena and Lisa are busy trimming hooves

Now that shearing is done, we are hurtling downhill towards lambing time, due to begin just after Valentine’s Day! If any of you out there are handspinners, we’d be happy to send you a sample of our wool ‘in the grease.’ Just send us an e-mail.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    January 26, 2010 11:33 am

    Thanks for letting us watch. It was a very en-lite-ening experience (hee, hee for the Ewes that is…get it:)ok so much for humor.

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