Wednesday, May 06, 2009
We usually try to have our sheep shorn in mid-April, but this year, we had to keep putting off shearing as we were hit with spring storm after spring storm. Even after the rains stop, the wool has to dry before we can shear. We were finally able to shear this week, just in time for lambing to begin. The top photo is of me trailing the sheep to the shearing pen, complete with guard dogs and burro.
Trailing the sheep is relaxing. I walk with them, and laugh as they zig-zag through the sagebrush, flushing sage grouse and jackrabbits as we go. The photo below is of sweet Rena's dirty face after she swam in the river, thieved a fish carcass dropped by an osprey, then buried the fish out in the dirt.
The sheep turn to go into the pasture. That's a burro butt in front. Blue Rim in the back, husband Jim's head is somewhere in between.
Nice purple color on the sheep shearing plant, isn't it? That's a freshly shorn ewe coming out one side.
Shearing is a necessary evil. We have fine-wooled sheep, so the wool is magnificent. But shearing day is stressful on the animals, especially when they are so pregnant. The guy in the cool shades below is my son Cass, skipping school to help out.
We hired a new sheep shearing crew this year, since our regular shearer went out of the business. The new crew, consisting of a seven-man shearing plant, included shearers from Peru, New Zealand, Australia, and even a couple of Americans (a rarity in shearing). It takes about three to four minutes to shear each sheep.
The photo below shows the wool that is kicked out the front of the shearing plant, sorted according to wool grade, then baled.
At last, naked sheep. Our wool was sold to the United States Army this year – a first for us. We sell with our friend Pete, so it leaves here in 400-pound bales stacked on semi-tractor trailers headed to the railroad. Our wool usually goes overseas for designer clothing, but this year, it stays in the U.S. I like that notion.