We are relaunching tours here at Cloverworks Farm! We want to share our sheep and our vision of a more sustainable food and textile future with you. Enjoy our beautiful scenery and meet our charming sheep!
We will be offering tours by appointment. Tours will be entirely outdoors. Tours will be socially distanced – visitors will be asked to stay at least 6 feet away from us. Out of state visitors must meet VT quarantine requirements to be eligible to visit. We want to share the farm with you, but we have to keep ourselves safe and healthy for the farm to function.
We get a lot of similar questions from folks about our sheep – Here are all of the questions you’ve been wondering about but haven’t wanted to ask:
How often are sheep shorn?
Some breeds are shorn twice a year, but we shear our adults only once per year in early Spring. We shear early so that the ewes are wool-less at lambing time. That helps us see the ewe’s labor, helps the lambs find the teats, and encourages the ewe to lamb in shelter rather than out in the snow!
Does shearing hurt the sheep?
Shearing is just a haircut. Once in a while, a sheep might get nicked but overall, the sheep always seem relieved of their heavy wool. Mine go straight for fence post and scratch all of their itches that have gone unrelieved for a few months.
Do you spin your own yarn?
With over 100 pounds of wool from our sheep each year, we cannot possibly hand-spin our yarn. Our yarn is locally mill-spun. We offer batts and roving to handspinners who enjoy spinning BFL and Border Leicester wool.
What do all of the sheep terms mean?
- Ewe: A female sheep
- Ram: An intact male sheep
- Wether: A neutered male sheep
- Lamb: any sheep under 1 year of age. A 9 month old could weigh 150 pounds and still be a “lamb”
- Breedstock: Sheep of high enough quality for breeding. Not every sheep born meets this definition.
- Flock: A group of sheep
- Herd: A group of goats, cattle, or other non-sheep ruminants
How can you tell sheep from goats?
Most sheep have wool and no goats do, but some sheep have hair that can resemble the coat of a goat. Most easily, goat tails point up and sheep tails point down.
What is wool?
Once upon a time, sheep had dual coats with guard hairs on the outside and insulating wool beneath. Shepherds grew tired of having itchy hairs in their wool garments, so they gradually bred sheep not to have guard hairs any more. Wool is the insulating former-undercoat that sheep grow. It is structurally distinct from hair or fur and shouldn’t be referred to by those terms. Only sheep grow wool – other fiber animals grow fiber such as cashmere and mohair from goats or alpaca and llama from camelids.
I have a few acres that I want mowed – should I get sheep?
Raising sheep is more intensive and complicated than just putting them on a pasture and leaving them there to eat. I recommend sheep for people who are interested in maintaining open land AND who are passionate about animal care and management. Using a lawnmower is less overall work compared to an equivalent number of sheep.
Are we eating baby lambs?
Not really. Sheep are fully mature at one year old. Lambs that go to slaughter are not tiny babies -they are well-grown “adolescents” who weigh over 100 pounds.
What does a “Sheep Year” look like?
- In March, our lambs are born. The ewes raise their lambs for three months. At the end of three months, most lambs weigh 50 pounds or more and are ready for independence. Remember, prey animals have to grow up fast in order to be less vulnerable to predation.
- Our sheep graze on grass all summer long- we rotate them to new pastures daily. The hunt for tasty grass is mentally stimulating to the sheep and optimizes their nutrition intake, too.
- By fall, most lambs weigh more than 100 pounds. We only need one ram for every 20 ewes, so we only keep the very best rams for that job. The rest go in the freezer.
- Breeding season also takes place in the Fall. We separate the ewes into breeding groups and send a ram in with each group. This allows us to pure-breed our Border Leicesters and Bluefaced Leicesters for pedigree purposes.
- After breeding season, the ewes go into the barn and the rams to their separate shelter area. The sheep eat hay all winter.
- Sheep gestation lasts 5 months. Our sheep typically have twins, but can have singles, triplets and even quads. We prefer when they have twins because that ensures that all of the lambs get plenty of milk from their ewe’s two teats. Sometimes, one of the triplets in a set gets less than the others, meaning we have to intervene to feed the weaker lamb.