Today was the day for shearing the sheep. We don't actually shear the sheep ourselves, but we hire shearers to come to the ranch and do the job for us. It was a dismal -6* when things got cranked up this morning and I really felt sorry for everyone. Sure, the shearing crew brought their portable heater and we had ours in the barn, but golly, it's cold! See the foggy breath from the ewe in the picture above?
The sheep are corralled in the barn and then are gradually taken through pens and up this alley and eventually they end up in the shearing rig where the four shearers are waiting for them. Each man takes a ewe and goes to work. He doesn't tie up the sheep, but lays it on its back and gently rolls her around until all the wool is expertly and smoothly sheared off in one big fleece.
Shearers doing their thing
After the sheep are sheared, they are popped out of one side of the rig through a trap door while the fleeces are kicked out the other side of the rig. This fellow takes each fleece and throws it onto a skirting table where he examines it, takes away the "bellies" (which are the soiled and poopy parts) and sacks those bits separately from the big, nice fleeces.
Gathering a fleece from the rig
See the big skirting table below? This fleece has already been skirted (examined and picked over) and will be thrown into the sacking machine. All the good wool goes into the sacker and is pressed tightly and is made into a wool bale. We ended up with 5 bags of good fleeces today and 2 bags of bellies. The wool was taken to town and weighed and will be sold when the wool buyers come around. Two hundred head of sheep yielded 2400 lbs. of wool. We were pretty happy about that.
Skirting wool fleece
Don't the ewes look so white and clean now without their heavy wool? The wool fleece looks very dark on the surface and actually, the soil line is about half way down the fibers while the other half nearest to the skin is a very creamy white. It's nice and warm and greasy from the natural lanolin that sheep produce.
All sheared, and white as snow
I think the old girls will be glad to go right into the shed tonight, don't you? Without their thick, wool jackets, they are likely to feel the cold weather a little more. We are expecting baby lambs sometime around February 15th and really, they could come any day now. We're watching them more closely up at the Big Shed. I'm so glad that our weather is supposed to gradually warm up! It makes lambing a lot more fun when you don't have to fight the cold.
I always think about what the Bible says about wool whenever the sheep are sheared. I love looking closely at it, especially the whitest wool. The sheep don't stay "white" for very long.
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.