Friday afternoon was shearing day, here at The Lowe Farm.
With the cosmic alignment of the stars (and unlimited long distance on our cell phones) we managed to schedule our shearing much earlier this year. Usually we shoot for the first week in June. Last year was even later!
May tends to be ugly and unpredictable around here. We’ve sheared in early May and then had everyone come down with field pneumonia after a week of cold rain before. (Thankfully that year everyone was only 6 sheep!)
In the past we had mostly Hog Island sheep. They can handle the hot, humid weather really well. If they get too hot, they just start shedding their wool all by themselves. (It’s strange to see, but fascinating as far as biological adaption goes.) But now we have mostly Clun Forest and they don’t take the heat quite as well. This year we’ve already had several days in the high 80s (not normal!) and we think that we might have already faced one heat stroke attack.
Shearers are also hard to come by once you get in the season. So as I mentioned, everything came together and here we are with nak-ed sheep the first week in May.
This is the perfect time for us to work everyone with hoof trims, body condition checks, deworming, de-licer, and ear tagging, so the crew and I will be doing all that today and tomorrow after work. (Sounds exciting, right? I’m sure you’ll get to hear all about it later this week!)
Speaking of the crew…
They always come out to watch and run errands too. Shearing Day is a big deal! The Ladybug and Speedracer get pretty bored by it all after the first 30 minutes or so, but the Cowboy stayed with me the whole 3 hours.
Overall we’re pretty happy with how everyone is looking. Sheep can be very deceptive with all that wool. You can never, ever, ever judge a sheep visually. When they’re in full wool, they all look big and fat and healthy. (We’ve learned the hard way about this.) You’ve got to get your hands on them, dig down into their wool, and feel their bodies.
After shearing can be deceptive too because the clippers follow their bone structure so it can naturally outline or highlight their bones and make them look more prominent than they actually are. Plus, being stressed makes them breath harder, which sucks their bellies in and out drastically.
So the best thing to do it wait 24 hours after shearing, let everyone settle down, then run them through the chute and assess them. You’d expect anyone with a nice healthy lamb to be a little thin and anyone with twins to be running a little thinner than that even–that’s a sign of a good milking momma. But you don’t want anyone that seems too thin or anyone that’s thin for no reason.
You also want to make sure that your lambs are vigorous with those thinner ewes. If the ewe is skinny and the lamb is skinny or weak-looking too, that’s a sign of trouble. We were really happy to see how good our lambs seem to be coming along this year!
Our sick ewe from last month is obviously thin and rough looking, but we’re amazed by how much weight she’s put on since she was sick (even while nursing twins!), and her lambs are looking good too. A little on the small side, but healthy and gaining weight now. After all they went through, that’s more than we first expected. They might have just lost a little ground when she was sick and have to catch up.
Did you do anything exciting this past weekend? Did you have a special Mother’s Day?
Besides all things sheep and wool this week, I’m going to be featuring my handmade Mother’s Day gifts on Wednesday so be sure to stop by and see how adorably sweet my kiddos are!