When the new year rolls around it is time to shear the pregnant ewes, so they will be clean of fleece and ready to lamb. Yesterday was the big day for our 41 pregnant ewes, and it was a LONG day for Lolo, Lisa, Melinda and me, and for the ewes also.
The day began shortly after sunrise, with the girls expecting, but not receiving, their alfalfa breakfast. They are much more comfortable for shearing if their rumens are not full.
Melinda gathered the ewes from the front pasture and walked them to the corrals, where Melinda, Lolo, Lisa and I hurried to remove all their coats before 9:00 when John, our shearer, was due to arrive. By 9:00 we had all the ewes in the barn ready for John, and I had the first load of dirty coats in the washing machine.
Removing all the coats in advance meant I was free to skirt the fleeces as they came off the ewes. Melinda would gather the fleece and throw it on the skirting table for me and then I would go to work. I had to work really hard to keep up with John!
Then wouldn’t you know, in the middle of the morning, I got a text on my phone that some of the cattle from our ranch were out and milling about in the grassy area above the Boat Works! We’ve replaced all our fence down there, but still Lolo and I had to run down to investigate while John had a lunch break. Meaning we got no lunch.
Turned out they weren’t our cattle, but came from the neighboring ranch!
Lisa had some fun posing with a wooly hairpiece.
After skirting each fleece, I stuffed it, cut-side out, into a clear plastic bag, labelled a card with the ewe’s name and any comments, and Melinda stacked the bags outside the creamery where they will be stored.
By 3:00 the girls were all sheared, and I had been shuttling back and forth to the other barn getting the coats all washed. After shearing the ewes will each go down a few coat sizes. We change coats up to 5 times a year. John complimented us on our coat-changing. Infrequent coat-changes can result in sores where the leg-straps can chafe as the coats get too tight, but we didn’t have a single sore, and John said that is rare!
Once we’d said goodbye to John, I gathered all our coats and Lolo and Melinda moved the ewes back to the corrals to get their new coats, while Lisa took care of feeding the dogs and my horse, Cassino. We worked fast and had everyone coated by 4:00, then it was back to the front pasture where their feeders were set up with alfalfa–their only protein meal of the day today, and as they are pregnant, they need their nutrition.
As the sun set, Melinda brought the ewes back from the front pasture to spend their first night in the barn, as the nights have been dipping to near freezing and we like to give them one night in the barn to adjust to life without a wooly insulation layer.