Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Shearing sheep...

Four shearers were on board

It's shearing time again!  The shearers showed up at about 7:30 a.m. and sheared 200 head in about 4 hours time.  Our job was to push the sheep up the alley and into the shearing trailer.  The sheep worked up the ramp pretty well for the most part, but at different points of the day, the sheep balked and would refuse to move and so we took turns shoving each one into the trailer.  It was hard on the arms.
Each ewe walked up the ramp into the trailer to be sheared
 
After they were sheared, the sheep were tipped out a small trap door on the side.  This ewe slid down the ramp but was soon on her feet again.


Chuck is the crew boss.  It's his rig.  He's been shearing sheep since he was in his early twenties.  I believe he learned the trade from some Australian and New Zealand shearers who came to the area in the 80s to shear and to teach.  He's been shearing for us for almost 30 years. The shearers and skirters all earn their pay individually according to how many head they shear and how many fleeces they throw and sort.
 It still mesmerizes me to watch a good shearer do his thing.  It's as though the wool slips off like butter. The shearing tools are extremely sharp so they do cut wool like butter. Shearing, in all actuality, is hard work, but the guys make it look easy.
 HP took off walking out to the sheared sheep.  I hollered, "What are you doing over there?
She replied, "Seeing my sheepy friends."  The girl loves the sheep.

This young man has been nicknamed "Champ" because he recently won the National Sheep Shearing Competition for the intermediate level.  We knew him from our home school group.

The skirters pull the fleeces through a trap door on the other side of the trailer.  They throw the fleeces onto a large lazy Susan style table where they pick off the undesirable wool from the bellies and legs and pick off the short pieces.  They throw the less desirable wool into a separate bag and put the whole, good fleece into another bag.  The bags are stuffed full and pressed tightly into a bale which is taken to town and sold at the local wool warehouse. The sheep averaged  about 11 pounds of wool each and the head man said that our wool was some of the best he's seen.  They will core each bale and grade it and the wool will be sold according to its weight and grade.

Next up....lambing!  The ewes are due to lamb on about February 15th.  I just love lambing season.  More to come in the days to come.

16 comments:

  1. That little peachy girl in her red riding hood is too cute! I love my ducky friends so I understand that!

    Love the idea of the sheep sliding unceremoniously out of that trailer! Too funny. Do you know, generally speaking, who buys your wool and where it goes or what it becomes? How long do you keep individual sheep? Interesting stuff, Mrs. Jody. (I know...there I go with the questions.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love that you shared this, my dad will be shearing pretty soon, then lambing as well.
    It's an art to be able to do that well! My dad is really good at it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love all the pics! That is fast...very fascinating! Look forward to more news...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love posts like this...so educational! I am showing my kids...they love anything with animals. Our friends have sheep come graze their fields and a sheepherder from Peru stays, too. I only wish we could see the shearing in action!! Thanks for sharing:).

    ~Julia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Friens of ours run 3,000 head of sheep and we got to participate in the shearing a few years ago. IT IS HARD WORk. I don't know how the shearers do it in those hot trailers. My grandfather kept a very small flock of sheep in his pasture and the shearing was done so much differently back then. Fascinating to watch. Do you keep any of your own wool for spinning or knitting?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post! I could almost hear all the bleating, and stomping of feet as they climbed up into the trailer, one by one. I bet it's hot, smelly work too. Glad our trips to the hairdresser are a little more dignified, lol! xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. I always love to read about your sheep. Poor sheepies -- it's cold out there LOL! Do the pregnant ewes get sheared too? And do you ever use any of your wool for your knitting?

    ReplyDelete
  8. WW, We don't know who buys our wool or what it becomes, but since it is high grade wool, it is likely made into textiles or yarns. We keep the ewes until they start to have problems like broken teeth (they need to graze) or bad bags (they need to feed lambs) or if they come up dry (not pregnant). Generally, a ewe can last up to 7 years or so.

    Rachel,
    You're right...shearing is an art. And it's beautiful to watch. Best wishes to your dad as he sets out shearing and lambing.

    Julia,
    Sheep are excellent weed eaters and lots of farmers/ranchers and sometimes states will "hire" sheep to graze weeds for weed control.

    Bonnie,
    We used to have 1000 head of sheep but reduced that number and have increased our cow numbers. It was quite chilly here when we sheared, but still, the shearers stayed warm. They did have a heater in the trailer though. We don't keep any of our wool. I don't spin or knit. Maybe you have bought some of our wool that has been turned into yarns!

    Anna,
    Yes, all of the sheep get sheared, including the pregnant ewes. It has turned cold again, but the sheep are all put in the barn at night. They'll be growing more wool right away. I don't knit or crochet so I don't use the wool. We sell it so you knitters and crocheters can have the wool.

    Thanks for your comments and questions. I enjoyed reading them.

    Jody

    ReplyDelete
  9. Whew - busy day! I always worry the sheep will be cold without their coats -- maybe they need wool sweaters to wear until it gets warm ;)?
    G

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, I love this time of year, when you show us the sheep being sheered. It looks so satisfying! Can't wait to see the babies when they come.

    xofrances

    ReplyDelete
  11. HP is a girl after my heart, loving the sheep friends!
    I'm so glad you share the whole process with us. It's a wonderful thing!
    I am very eager for the lamb births,too.
    I hope your arms aren't too sore today!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE, Jody-friend!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow ~ this is really neat to see this whole process! I am curious...with a blog name like "Gumbo Lily" you must have some kind of ties to Louisiana!

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is so impressive! I've never witnessed a shearing in person and love watching the efficiency of a skilled shearer.

    The panbread in the previous post has me intrigued. Definitely a will-try!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Busy times Jody, thanks for the post. I love watching shearing but only get to do it at a few national trust estates.
    It's one of my favourite times of year to see the lambs in the fields and reminds me of when A was at college, she enjoyed taking part in lambing season. Looking forward to seeing your posts and pics of the little lambikins ;)

    ReplyDelete
  15. What kind of sheep are they?

    ReplyDelete

I love reading your comments. Thanks for stopping in.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...