Ewe Need a Haircut

January 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm 6 comments

Today I went to Forevermore Farm to help Debbie with shearing some of her sheep.  Wait– you may be asking.  It’s January, why shear now instead of waiting for a balmy spring day?  And why “some” of the sheep?  What’s so special about these:


First, they are all ewes.  Second, they are all pregnant, and due within a few weeks.  As Debbie explained, lambing is easier on a sheep (and on the shepherd) when the ewe is not in full coat, like these girls are.  But another important reason is that if you wait until spring to shear the ewes — who are then nursing their little ones — the lambs become terribly upset and often don’t recognize their mothers and won’t nurse.  So best to get the coats off now.


Debbie’s friend Bill did most of the shearing on a short table, with electric clippers similar to what a barber would use.  To keep the sheep from injuring herself or the shearer, she is restrained with leg ties and a neck leash.  I suspect sheep like to be sheared about as much my children like getting their flu shots…  but it both cases it’s necessary and for their good.


As the fleece comes off the sheep, it goes to the skirting table, where the wool is sorted through and any parts that are encased in “tags” (i.e., sheep poop), are too short, or have lots of straw and seed in it are removed and discarded.  This is where I came it — I was one of the people skirting the freshly shorn fleeces.  The wool from each sheep was then put ito it’s own bag, labeled with the name of the sheep.   Some fleeces will be sold just like they are – raw and full of lanolin.  Most will be sent to a carding mill to be scoured (washed) and carded into roving.  I brought some home to list in my etsy shop.


Here’s an after picture of the newly shorn sheep.  They will now have the privilege of staying in the barn at night and in poor weather, and get extra grains as they await the arrival of their lambs and begin nursing. 


Okay, I admit — they are prettier with a full coat.  But oh, what wonderful wool I brough home in those three bags (yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!).  Although all the sheep are Coopworth or Coopworth crosses, their fleeces varied from animal to animal.  Some were longer and more lustrous than others, and the younger sheep tended to have finer, crimpier wool.  Laurel, a Coopworth/Bluefaced Leichester cross whose fleece I brought home is particularly soft and fine .  And they weren’t all white — the two other fleeces I got are from Faith, who has multishaded grey/brown wool, and Jasmine, who is a black sheep.  She and her wool are in these last few pictures (sun bleaches the tips of black fleeces, so before shearing they look coppery colored).


Quite a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, IMHO – my kinda fun!


Entry filed under: OTHER FIBER FUN. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Simply Batty! New Lambs – New Spring Dyeing

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. abigail  |  January 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    ohh, I so want that black fleece, I wish we had the extra cash laying around 😦
    you are so lucky!

  • 2. amy  |  January 25, 2009 at 12:32 am

    That’s so awesome! I’m totally jealous. I spend lots of time on Craigslist up here in Portland, in hopes that a sheep farmer will put out a call for extra, volunteer hands.
    And I think they look cute, with or without their fleeces.

  • 3. Tracy  |  January 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    What a neat thing! Those girls look rather relieved with their new ‘dos… I LOVE the coloring in Laurel’s fleece! WOW! So do you have a drum carder or do you do it by hand? I want very much to learn this…

    Thanks for posting this, Melissa. What a treat!

  • 4. kim*  |  January 29, 2009 at 1:16 am

    kinda gross lol

  • 5. Eileen  |  February 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I just love all the pictures. I’ve never been to a sheep shearing, but now I want to go!

  • 6. Dana  |  March 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    that sounds like loads of fun, and at least the ewes get special treatment for being sheared earlier! I just bought some roving from you on etsy that is from one of those bags you brought home. I can’t wait to get it and spin it up!


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