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Helter Shelter

January 2, 2011

One of the nicest things about raising sheep is that for most of the year, the girls carry their shelter around on their backs. In the sauna that is summer in Oklahoma, they definitely need shade. Sometimes that is provided by trees, but we also have portable shelters that we move from pen to pen. These shelters have held up very well in all kinds of weather, from thunderstorms to ice storms to snow storms. This time of year, though, the ewes are carrying 3-4″ of wool, and they won’t even go in the shelter in the pouring rain, much less snow. The lanolin sheep naturally produce next to their skin enables them to wick moisture away, while the wool keeps them warm, even if it’s wet.

It’s this refusal to seek shelter in adverse conditions that is the primary driver behind shearing the ewes prior to lambing. When they are ‘naked,’ they are more likely to get under cover, which is very important when it comes time to give birth. In addition, it’s real important, especially with dairy sheep, to monitor body condition during the latter part of pregnancy. By this, we mean that we want the ewes to be in between Jack Sprat and his wife. Too fat, and the ewe may have problems giving birth, and she will definitely not give very much milk, due to excess fat deposits inside the udder. Too skinny, and the ewe is at risk for milk fever prior to lambing or to poor performance during lactation.

These two ewes have about a month's wool regrowth after shearing. It was freezing drizzle that night, and they are parked under shelter. The one on the left lambed about 2 hours after this picture was snapped.

This week, we’ll deploy a 5th portable shelter, to provide plenty of room for the group of ewes that are going to lamb starting February 7th. The shearer comes on Saturday! It’s going to be a busy week of preparation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 11:05 pm

    My lands they ARE naked! I’m going to feel guilty about this next month….

    • January 3, 2011 11:27 pm

      Actually, they really only need about a week’s worth of wool before they can handle just about any weather. *Now* the forcast is for rain/snow Saturday night through Tuesday , but we have enough shelter that they should all be just fine. I’ll throw them some extra corn calories, too.

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