Two day’s worth of preparation went in to getting 35 lambs shorn in an organized manner, but it was worth the effort for a smooth and pleasant experience.
First, a bit about why we shear lambs in the fall:
Last year, we fall-sheared lambs who would be “getting on the truck,” as it were. We ended up shearing a few Border Leicester ewe lambs who, when shorn, ended up having great breed character and structure. So we kept two shorn lambs over the winter among the unshorn “keeper” lambs. We carefully observed the shorn lambs for signs of discomfort, but all of them looked perfectly content and comfortable. By October, they had a good cover of wool and by November, a thick coat of wool covered them to keep them warm. Come spring shearing, the wool from the shorn lambs was picture-perfect and clean. Meanwhile, the unshorn lambs gave damaged fleeces with excessive growth, some of which were too felted to be usable. More importantly, the huge growth of wool disguised the thinness of some ewe lambs. Not what you want to find after a winter of feeding! The BFL over-wintered fleeces were cotted at the tips and challenging to clean and use, as well. So this year, we thought we’d try shearing everyone.
The first step was gathering the materials. We have a shorting chute that uses sheep psychology to gently organize and restrain the sheep. They are inclined to follow the curve and form a single-file line to get through. It’s gentler and less stressful than grabbing each sheep one by one. We used the chute as a “lamb dispenser” for Mary, our shearer. She’d complete one shearing, tidy up, and then we’d raise the gate and the next sheep would be queued up, right there.
Mary shears gently and swiftly. She removes any belly wool first, tidies the bum, and then gets on with the work of shearing all of the usable wool. The first stroke goes up the chest, and then Mary shears the front of the sheep, gradually peeling wool away using gravity. She goes down one side, around the back, and then rolls the sheep to access the other side. We had a few naughty lambs who kicked and put up a fuss – bad lambs! Our little bottle lamb, Sausage McWiggles, kept coming by for extra pets. She sniffed and investigated Mary while Mary was trying to shear other sheep. We did have to dismiss little Sausage.
After shearing, all of the lambs ran off baaing. As soon as they realized they were naked, they invariably got to work grooming and nibbling the little itchies that they’d been unable to address for months.
Once the fleece was off the sheep, it went straight to Donna Druchunas and husband Dom. They removed any dirty or undesirable wool straightaway and packed the fleece up. Sending Donna home with her favorite fleece of the day seemed like little payment for such great work, but that’s what she wanted most.
In prior years, we have used fall-shorn fleece to make roving and extra yarn. This year, with no Sheep and Wool Festivals happening in-person, we are going to sell this wool as raw fleece. It’s been a little while since we’ve offered raw fleece! I think you’re going to love the tiny ringlets of the BFL and the gorgeous crimp of the Border. We have white and natural Border and we have white BFL. We did not have many natural BFL lambs this year and those we had were sold.