The Shearing of the Sheep

Feb
28

Mr. Cotswold was quite eager for his haircut.
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Okay, not exactly. He was, in fact, quite eager to get out of the pen.


He tried hiding in the corner. The 74-year-old sheep shearer went in for the take-down.
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It went swimmingly.
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Or really, not so much…..
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Actually, not at all.
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So 52 got involved.
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And the big guy went down for the count. What we didn’t realize at this point was that this was the easy one…… The ram was already in the pen, being kept separated from the girls. We’d find out soon just how hard the ewes were going to be to catch.
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But we were still in dreamland that getting them on the ground was the hard part and I was watching a shearing for the first time.
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He’s been shearing sheep for 50 years, but he’d never sheared a Cotswold before. Cotwolds aren’t common in these parts.
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Back in the day, he used to shear 3000 sheep a year. Last year, he only sheared 300. Sheep aren’t so common in these parts anymore at all.
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He said he used to be able to shear 12 sheep an hour. I think he sheared about two an hour for us (five total) but that time did include hoof-trimming and chasing sheep around the yard.

Cotswolds have an enormous amount of wool. Soft, lovely wool.
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Check out the ringlets.
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When Mr. Cotswold was all nakey, he got a pedicure. (Sheep are sheared once a year and hooves are usually trimmed at the same time, often along with other business such as giving shots.)
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Doesn’t he look like he’s enjoying that?

And here he is, bald!
cotswoldramsheared
What a difference.

Remember when he looked like this?
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Then it was time to get the girls, one at a time. That’s when we found out we’d made a big giganto mistake by not penning them all up to start with.

We managed to grab the Jacob girls in the next two rounds. It involved a lot of chasing them around the yard, but at least they have “handles” to grab onto to stop them.
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Doesn’t she look thrilled?

It was just as amazing watching the Jacob “coat” come off as the Cotwold.
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Like the Cotswolds, the Jacobs look a lot smaller when they’re naked.
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But now we had to get those Cotwold girls–and they have no handles! We ran around the yard like complete idiots while working to herd them behind the goat house. It was the only workable location to trap them in with the otherwise wide open goat yard at their disposal.
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I’d have some excellent photos for you of this process, but I was involved. (Hard to take pictures when you’re wrestling 200 pounds of sheep into submission.) The shearer stood at the back of the goat house, blocking the narrow path between the rear of the goat house and the fence with that pallet you can see resting against the fence in the photo above. 52 and I herded the sheep around the other side of the goat house. Once we got them trapped to where the only place to go was to run into that narrow path between the goat house and the fence, 52 ran back around to the other side. I grabbed hold of a Cotswold by the long, lovely ringlets while the shearer held the pallet in place till 52 got back around there to grab the sheep. Then all three of us held on while we pushed and shoved and ordered the sheep into the pen.

Well, the ordering didn’t help much. It was mostly the pushing and shoving. And by the way, have you ever tried to get a sheep to walk somewhere it doesn’t want to go? Two hundred pounds don’t move very easily when they are planting their hooves into the mud.

Oh yeah, it was muddy, did I mention that? I was covered from head to toe by the time it was over. It was like a mud wrestling match. With sheep.

In the bad news category, one ewe’s hooves were cut too deep and there was a lot of bleeding. In other bad news, he was several minutes into shearing one of the Cotswold ewes when we heard this: “I ain’t never cut off a tit before.” GREAT. (And there was even more bleeding then.) Thousands of sheep over 50 years, and it happens to our sheep. She’s okay now (and it wasn’t quite as bad as all that), but he did damage her teat and we may have to bottle-feed any lambs beyond a single at a time from her because she may only be able to nurse one. We have a year before they’ll need sheared again, time to think about whether we want to learn to shear ourselves next time.

But in the end, they were all naked and we had five piles of this.
cotwoldfleece
(To be continued tomorrow!)

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on February 28, 2009  

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Comments

47 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 2-28
    1:17
    am

    holy moly,heavy drama

  2. 2-28
    1:40
    am

    My teats just sucked themselves up into my chest cavity while reading that … aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! :shocked:

    Found your blog because you’re a romance writer … staying for the animal stories!

  3. 2-28
    2:25
    am

    i know you know. OBVIOUSLY you researched this. so instead of asking, “won’t they be cold now?” i’ll ask, “why won’t they be cold now?”
    as for the missing tit…i think someone needs to retire? :shocked:
    poor baby ewe….

  4. 2-28
    2:46
    am

    oh my…what a traumatic experience for all!

  5. 2-28
    2:49
    am

    I was wondering BOTH of Shannon’s questions!

  6. 2-28
    3:55
    am

    Farming is tough. Never had sheep but did have a 50 cow dairy herd years ago. Culling is hard, but sometimes economically necessary. I guess you have to decide if animals are pets or part of a working small farm. When cows lost teats due to injury or production is decreased from persistent mastitis, sometimes they were sent for beef. Always a hard thing to do especially if you hand raised and named all your animals.

    Good luck with the injured Cotswold, I hope she heals well and is functional in all body parts. Under all that wool the sheared sheep all look like they were well feed.

  7. 2-28
    4:09
    am

    No wonder they don’t like to be sheared! The poor girl! I’d run away too!

    Whoo! Hooo! You’ve got wool! and lots of it. So…what are you going to do with it now?

    I wonder why they aren’t cold, too.

  8. 2-28
    5:45
    am

    Sheep can be sheared any time of year, but usually people do it in the spring or fall. I think most people do it in the spring so they are cooler with less wool over the summer and warmer with more wool in the winter. End of February is not quite spring, but this is the time of year the farmer we bought them from regularly sheared them. When we got them, he told us he would be shearing them this week if he was keeping them, that he liked to shear them just before it warmed up because in the case of any cuts during shearing, cold weather was healthier (less danger of infection/parasites) in a wound. By doing it in late February, you still get the benefit of doing it in cold weather and yet it won’t be long before it’s warm, so that was his strategy. Being inexperienced, I just followed his recommendation. (They have shelter in the goat house, so even if it snows again, which it may, they have a warm, dry place to go.)

  9. 2-28
    6:05
    am

    Isnt it a fun process to watch this. Its getting to be a lost art – sheep shearing. Granny and I have washed a ‘fleece’ in the OLD washing machine. but it has to be washed in cold water, no detergent…. its a long process. The sheep look happier without all the extra weight on them!!! Hope you dont get any more snow – we did…. :pirate:

  10. 2-28
    6:12
    am

    brrrrrrr – how will they stay warm the rest of winter!!!!

  11. 2-28
    6:42
    am

    They definitely don’t look as mysterious now!! Wow, what a process shearing is…..didn’t think of the catching part……you would think that big of an animal (well not so big without all that fleece!) would be docile! NOT!!

  12. 2-28
    6:56
    am

    I’m amazed that your shearer would even sheer when they were damp! My guy is a stickler for dry sheep. Lesson learned, I assume? Next year you’ll have them all penned up IN the little goat shed…

    ;-)

    I pay my shearer a $10 bonus if there are no nicks. I think if he cut a teat off of one of my girls I’d cut something off of HIM!!!

  13. 2-28
    7:23
    am

    I’m sure too, that ‘back-in-the-day’, the sheerer also looked like something out of the Thornbirds which I suddenly have a hankering to watch.

  14. 2-28
    7:38
    am

    Suzanne, you never run out of ways to make me laugh! I just wish I would learn not to have a mouth full of coffee when I do! (Getting tired of cleaning coffee off my monitor…!)

  15. 2-28
    7:58
    am

    The Cotswolds were so Rastafarian/hippie-like and then they went all business-like.

  16. 2-28
    9:06
    am

    Loved your post! I also have Cotswolds and yes the shearer always does them first before doing the Shetlands because they tend to be more of a “project”. Cotswolds are the most loveable sheep especially the wethers who love their daily hugs!

  17. 2-28
    9:17
    am

    I’m with new Bonnie B – ohh, arrgghh, cut a tit off!??? Now I think I know how guys feel when someone refers to Lorena Bobbitt in their presence!

    In the 9th picture down, Mr. Cotswold is beginning to look like a giant naked chicken being readied for the crock pot.

    OK, enuff said on weird unpleasant topics! Your sheep are still beautiful, and I hope they recover from their snits in short order. Do they like cookies?

  18. 2-28
    9:25
    am

    I’ll wait until later to break the news about hoof trimming. :sheepjump:
    Another reason you shear in the Winter (if you’re lambing in the Winter) — When the ewe delivers, she can tell what the weather is like, and will keep her babies warm. Also in the Summer, all that wool can cause heat related problems (stroke, exhaustion, etc). :sheep:
    I’ll email you the instructions for skirting and washing all that wool! :sun:

  19. 2-28
    9:32
    am

    That’s a lot of wool for a years’ growth… they look young again without their wool.

  20. 2-28
    9:40
    am

    i loved reading this, so funny

    hugs
    gwen

  21. 2-28
    10:04
    am

    We had a boy sheep that the shearer got a bit too close and slit through the outer layers of skin and then the rest of it split apart. It was gross.

    Make sure that the area stays clean so it does not get infected.
    Watching them get shorn is exciting! They all deserve cookies!
    Still no icon for a naked sheep.

  22. 2-28
    10:10
    am

    They are beautiful animals now that we can get a look at them w/o all that wool. The cotswold ram looks like Annabelle! Good luck treating the wounded ones, I’m doctoring 2 house pets here and its exciting and they’re both in the house! Was thinking about you this morning, I’m also babysitting 2 cats and another papillion (our grand fur babies), so we’re up to 5 cats and 2 dogs with birds to come. Good luck with the sheep.
    huggs,
    margiesbooboo

  23. 2-28
    10:19
    am

    Oh lordy – you need a good stiff drink after all of that! The jacob’s are beautiful even without their wool – love the spots all over their bodies.

  24. 2-28
    10:19
    am

    Wow. Just….wow.

  25. 2-28
    10:43
    am

    Loved this post. The pics are wonderful as usual and so much info. What an education. I do feel sorry for the sheep that were injured but Kathy made me see it from the shearers side too. I would still have been very upset if they were my sheep though. Can’t wait to hear what you are going to do with the wool.

  26. 2-28
    10:46
    am

    Bonnie B you kill me. I lol. Suzanne, that was so dramatic. Are you sure you want to be a farmer. I’m exhausted just reading about chasing sheep around the yard.

  27. 2-28
    11:11
    am

    I’m sure you are glad that job is finished! It is one of the most dreaded around here. Are any of the ewes already bred? (You can usually tell by udder development and ‘baby bumps’ during shearing). I have an old ewe who has only one functional teat and she has raised twins every year. I do supplement the twins once they get to eating grain–at about six weeks, since it seems one twin ends up the favorite and gets more than their share. But for the first (and most critical) period she nurses both successfully. So, just getting it healed up is the main thing, the rest will work out. Nicks and cuts happen–squirmy sheep, condition of the wool, ease of shearing etc etc—but most of them on the body heal up quickly without any problems. All that lanolin I suppose. Many shepherds shear this time of the year, so you are spot on with that. Make sure they have a nicely bedded shelter and extra groceries for a few days, until they get a good fuzz covering and they will be fine. Within a week, they won’t be affected by much of anything. Have fun with all your pretty bags of wool!
    Tammy

  28. 2-28
    11:32
    am

    Perhaps a herding dog should be added to the menagerie?

    M

  29. 2-28
    11:37
    am

    This is a great story to read. I couldn’t stop me when I tought the people try to catch the sheeps… Sorry, it must be difficult for you :))

  30. 2-28
    12:15
    pm

    I hope you are going to use all that lovely wool! It would knit so nicely!!

  31. 2-28
    12:34
    pm

    You deserve a day at the spa after all of that Suzanne!

  32. 2-28
    2:03
    pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun and laughter while chasing the sheep. I know it would have been around here.
    I can’t blame the sheep for not wanting to be caught though. I mean, how would you feel if someone grabbed you by the hair, threw you to the ground and stripped you of all your warmth and left you that way. LOL
    Just part of a sheeps life. Soon they will be glad they don’t have all that warmth.

  33. 2-28
    2:40
    pm

    I don’t think anyone who hasn’t helped with a sheep shearing can possibly know how stubborn and contrary a sheep can be.

  34. 2-28
    3:32
    pm

    I realize that none of this was supposed to be funny but I laughed so hard. The thought of you guys chasing the sheep was just very funny. Of course the poor sheep with the missing teat – sorry, even that one made me giggle.

  35. 2-28
    3:57
    pm

    Cookies, lots of cookies!

  36. 2-28
    4:26
    pm

    Mr. Shearer was nice to help out, but maybe he needs glasses or something? JEEZ! I hope she heals well. And yes, what are you going to do with all that wool?

  37. 2-28
    5:54
    pm

    OUCH! :cry: That poor little girl. That poor little hoof. :cry:

  38. 2-28
    7:10
    pm

    Oh honey, I’ve got two words for you. Wine and chocolate. Oh and a bubble bath. Preferably all three at the same time.

    Bless all their hearts.

  39. 2-28
    7:15
    pm

    Oh my – hairless and teatless :shocked: Wasn’t Coco any help?????

  40. 2-28
    7:30
    pm

    It’s all a learning experience, isn’t it? Nicks do happen, though most time not so dramatic, poor thing.

  41. 2-28
    8:54
    pm

    ;) Wow, those sheep are so darling. I wish I could have some of that wool. I love wool. You can raise the sheep though.

  42. 2-28
    9:38
    pm

    How many horns do Jacobs sheep have? #5 from the bottom looks like she had 3!! They sure are pretty!

  43. 3-1
    12:25
    am

    How in the world do you clean all that wool and get it into a usable form? Will you be getting a spinning wheel? :sheepjump:

  44. 3-1
    5:41
    pm

    Interesting patch on the back of Mr Shearer’s pants. A well placed horn perhaps???

  45. 3-1
    6:24
    pm

    I read this article on sheep farmers today and thought of you! http://www.twistcollective.com/collection/index.php/component/content/article/35-features/210-yarn-farm-from-sheep-to-skein-part-1-shearing

  46. 3-2
    8:19
    am

    Thank you so much for the lovely pictures, it brought back so many fond memories as I had to sell all of my sheep due to health. I hope to get some more some day soon as I am getting two brand new knees! I am a spinner and love sheep. Are you going to sell any of that lovely wool? Good luck to you! Grandmakty

  47. 3-2
    9:37
    am

    Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I’m not sure if there’s any more to say.

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