Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mutton Mondays - In the Spirit of Shearing.

Since it's shearing week on the ranch I'm going to share with you all you need to know about shearing.

So, what is shearing?
Shearing is a haircut for the sheep except they don't get to choose their style - they all get a buzz cut.

Why do you do it?
Sheep grow wool year round and with warm weather just around the corner shearing helps the sheep stay cool in the summer months. Each sheep produces on average 2 - 30lbs of wool a year and at the time of shearing their fleece weighs on average 7.5lbs. That's a lot of wool to carry around on a hot day! 

There are also reasons why we choose to shear our sheep right before lambing season begins. Lambs have an easier time nursing when sheep are shorn. Some sheep ranchers shear before lambing because shorn sheep take up less room in the barn.

What do you do with the wool?
We sell it. We get paychecks two times a year - a few months after shearing from the wool and in September when the lambs are sold.

Does it hurt the sheep? 
Absolutely not. I'd imagine they are a little frightened but the team we bring in to shear does a great job. There is an occasional nick, but it's nothing traumatic or too stressful for our sheep. 

How many times a year do you shear?
We shear only one time a year. There are some sheep ranchers that shear twice a year.

Who shears?
While anyone could try to shear sheep not everyone does a good job and that is why we pay the professionals. ;) Pop has used the same man every year and J and I don't plan on changing that. Our guy knows what he is doing and he has a good crew that we can trust to do a good job. 

What do they shear with? 
Shick razors. Totally kidding.
Our guys use electric razors and these have three parts to them - the handpiece, the comb and the cutters.
Electric shears look a little something like this:
Scary looking, right? Again, this is why we leave it to the professionals.

How do you package the wool?
First the wool must be "skirted". I've just learned what this is so bear with me.
Basically the "good" wool must be separated from the "bad" wool. Bad wool tends to include belly wool, off-color, burry and seedy wool and stained or dead wool. We get paid differently on the bad and the good wool.

Where do you send the wool?
After the wool is separated it's compressed into 400lb bales (like the picture below) and sent off to Roswell Wool.
So that is all you need to know about shearing, but don't go trying this at home!

Today I helped trail the sheep closer to home.
I'll be posting about this soon, but for now here is a picture from the day.
I have lots of things to share this week so stay tuned!
This is one of our VERY hard working herders.



Fashion Cappuccino said...

That's so interesting! I've always wondered about the shearing process! Thank you for sharing! xxoxoo

Heather said...

Very interesting.
7.5 pounds!? I would have never guessed that.

TV's Take said...

Facscinating really! 2-30lbs - what a range in wool per sheep. Hope your 'crop' is good this year.

Farmchick said...

We don't have sheep, but I find them fascinating. I enjoyed this post.

Marisa said...

Wow, up to 30 lbs of wool?! That's a lot of sweaters!

Aron said...

seeing those sheep is crazy!