Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall shearing

Monday was shearing day. For those of you that know me well (Lora Withnell, being one), know that I am not a morning person. I have been a night owl all of my life and so is my brother. Getting up early is not in my genes.

So I got up at 6:30 a.m. to heat water up for hot cocoa and get breakfast ready for the shearer. Tim arrived at 6:58 and off we went to shear. I decided to shear twice a year. It gets really wet and muddy here and when I do my March shearing, the ewes have massive mud on the back legs and it is hard to shear. Also I am lambing earlier with some ewes and don’t want 6 inches of wool to crutch for the lambs to find the teats. So I am going to shear in Oct and then in March. The fall shearer will be Tim Sorg, a local guy. Tim works as a cook at Sue and George MacDonald June trial each year. My March shearer will be Eifion, the Welsh shearer who has been shearing my flock for a few years.

The ewes before shearing.

A ram lab before shearing.

Thank goodness it is not raining or freezing. The day was actually warmish and sunny. I put sheep in the stall and Tim got to work. We started a few minutes after 7. Chuck was going to help with shearing. Chuck didn’t get here until mid morning so Tim snagged the sheep, sheared them and I did back up. I also made sure Tim had his hot cocoa and muffins. When Chuck arrived, he grabbed the shorn ewes and I trimmed the hooves.

The lambs in May. Later you will see them all sheared. This view is from my front porch when Tess did sheep tending on the front lawn.

The lambs in a bucket in the stall. Needless to say, they do not fit in that bucket anymore. They are so darn cute.

I know you are going to ask…trimming hooves so soon after your heart operation!! Yes, but I sat in a chair and Chuck hauled the sheep over to me. I did the front hooves while sitting in the chair and the squatted (not bending over) on the ground to do the back hooves. It worked out great. I didn’t lift or pull any ewes. I would get tired and I would take a break and walk to stretch out. Tim had gotten a few ewes ahead of us but we caught up.

The ewes were in great shape as they were on grass all spring and summer. They were 3-4 on a scale. One being too thin/starved, 2 is thin, 3 is perfect, 4 is chubby and five is FAT. As an average my ewes were 3.5-4. About 4 were FAT, FAT. No one was below a 3. Well, I am a low 2 rating. You can almost see my ribs!!

The ewe lambs that were born in March weighed out about 70/80 pounds and the ram lambs were 90/95 pounds. I used a new ram “Dutch” that was AI (Netherlands) that I got from Bet Reedy. I put him to my old Insminger lines and my Montana ram “Jared” to the Joan Chesebro lines. Those crosses worked out well. I got special grain blended with selenium/mineral that a guy in Eastern specially blended for my sheep in this environment. It cost a whole lot more but it was worth it. I creep fed the lambs with 4th cutting alfalfa and the special grain. The ewes in the last half of pregnancy got the 4th cutting alfalfa and bread and the special grain.

Here are the ewes that you saw earlier!! Can you pick out the ewes that have NOT missed a meal. Hint: There are more than one! Bonus points of you get them all.

Here are the ram lambs. Look how nice they look. They are well filled out.

The ewe lambs. These are some of the ewe lambs that I am going to keep.

We did over half the sheep and took a break for lunch. Getty (aka Jeff the spouse) made us spaghetti. I was starving and ate two plates. We hung out and relaxed and then headed down to the barn. It was nice to sit and chat with Tim. In the last nine years since he has been cooking at the June trial, I say the “howdy” chit chat but never sat down and had an extended chat with him. (On a side note, Tim and the other cooks make bbq/grilled clams and oysters fresh from the local bay, smoked pork roasts and all sorts of goodies at the June trial.) I enjoyed chatting with Tim and learned how he got *volunteered* at a young age to shear one ewe and then it just blossomed from there. Chuck and JB had a good time chatting.

No rest for the wicked so we went back to shearing. We had the routine down pretty well. Right after I had gotten out of the hospital, my students all came over and wormed and hoof trimmed the sheep on July 27th. They did an excellent job as only 5 sheep really needed to be trimmed. The rest were just mini trimming.

We had to shift sheep about since all of the sheep could not fit into the stall. As we trimmed the sheep, I marked then with orange dots, single black dot, double black dots and so forth. That was a way of identifying what ewe would go with what ram.

Tess was the chore dog. She would sort the sheep and push them and hold them where we needed them in the stall. As we would shear, she would lie where we told her and wait until we used her again. She has no problems cramming herself between the sheep and the wall to make them move, She has done hundreds if not over a thousand hours of work in the stall and is an old pro. She is very familiar with shearing.

I had Chuck use Tess to get sheep from one pasture to another and then sort into the stalls. He did very well and it was quiet work. Tess was more than happy to show someone the ropes.

Rainey, the 11 month old Tess pup (Tess x Delmar Scott), was out and about. She snuck into the stall as we went back into it after lunch. I have been using Rainey in the stall to push the ewes off the feeder while I fill them. She had never done shearing type of work before. I decided to use her with her mom, Tess. Rainey has an uncanny way of seeing what Tess does then mimicking it. So when I flanked Tess to push sheep off a wall, Rainer was next to her. I laid Tess down on the other side of the stall and Rainey stayed with her. After a while since we were into shearing, trimming, etc, I had forgotten that Rainey was in the stall. She held her position and did great stall work. She is very thoughtful and has a bit of eye but is strong. She did not rush or spook the sheep but worked well and quiet. I let her stay and work some more. I was very proud of her. She is a good dog to work in the stall and listens well.

We did a few more sheep and took more breaks as I was starting to fade and we got done by 5ish. We did 52 sheep and stuffed six large sacks full of wool. By then we were beat. Chuck then sorted all the marked sheep into the proper group and put the correct rams with them.

Tim also sharpens shears so I sent him home with my dull shears. He will send them back in a couple of weeks. I appreciate that he was able to come up and shear my sheep. If you want a local guy to shear your sheep, drop me an email and I will forward the info to him. He did not cut a single sheep and they were all evenly clipped. When he handled them, he was quiet and they were not spooked. I recommend him and he is available to shear.

We got done and Tim went on his merry way and no doubt tired!! JB went home and I am sure he was beat.

By the time we had sorted the sheep, Chuck helped me feed the sheep and then we let the dogs out to play. Chuck came up to the house and got some fresh farm eggs so he can make some treats? I was so tired that I hardly ate dinner and crashed early and hard. Tess was exhausted and passed out with me. Rainey was exhausted too as it was a lot of work and pressure for her. She passed out in her crate but not before eating her pig ear.

We did a lot of work on Monday but it was needed. We are almost ready for winter. We got the pasture prepped with gravel and hog fuel. We got the far pasture mowed. We got the sheep sheared and hoof trimmed. In a week or so, we will have to worm the sheep and we are done. The rams are in with the ewes and are happy.

It’s good to be happy!! Are you happy? You should be. If not, why not?

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