That time of year
Perhaps your mental image of sheep shearing is that of a single individual laboring with an animal on its rump. Joanna and I have always sheared as a team, and you may wonder why. Before I explain, allow me to point out that Joanna is in charge, she shears the animal, my job is to attend to details (legs, head and neck, tail, udder (girls), and delicate parts (boys)). I also lift the animal onto the stand, trim the hooves and deliver medications. We shear on a fitting stand because it’s easier on the back. Notice that the fleece is removed in a single piece. Harvesting the fleece in this way is critical for a handspinner. Fleece character and quality differs from front-to-back, side-to-side, and belly-to-topline. Because Joanna needs to be able to select different parts of the fleece for different applications, she needs to harvest the thing intact. Although I cannot tell you whether our animals find shearing stressful, I can tell you that the older animals remember being sheared and are far more relaxed about the process than are the yearlings. I can also report that, after being relieved of its heavy winter coat, each newly-sheared animal walks back to pasture with a smile and an extra bit of kick in its step.You might be interested in viewing last year’s contribution to this new, time-lapse, genre of farm film-making. Although the clip only runs for 25 seconds, the process required approximately 20 minutes.