Friday, July 19, 2013

Shearing in the Heat

The word of the week is the major heatwave that has gripped the US. It has been humid and in the upper 90's all week. And of course, this is the week that we had scheduled to begin shearing the sheep.

Kevin Ford, the blade shearer, arrived early Monday morning. The Farmer had all the yearling ewes in the mobile sheep handling unit (this thing is the best!) - all set for Kevin to begin. Our goal was to get all the yearling ewes done along with our two big breeding rams - a Polypay and a Cheviot. We didn't actually finish on Monday but it was close.

On Thursday, we finished the yearlings and moved to the next field to work on the second group of sheep. All total, Kevin sheared 108 sheep in two days which means The Farmer caught 108 sheep and I bagged 108 sheep's worth of wool. Granted, if it were my choice, I would not do physical work in such heat but I had no choice unless I wanted the wool to be scattered all over the countryside.

We still have 2 more large groups of animals to shear and will do them within the next 6 weeks. Kevin will be bringing in Gwen Hinman with her electric blades and hopefully we will be able to blow through the rest of them in a day. Or not. We'll see.

Here are some scenes along with my comments......

One done - 66 to go.

The only photos I have of Kevin are of him bent in half holding a sheep! Kevin is AMAZING. He is so gentle with the animals and knowledgeable. He has been doing this since 1975 and he is on his way to his 50th high school reunion. You do the math. As I said - AMAZING!

She looks much cooler.

Kevin's shears flying up the back - almost done girl. 

This is our enormous Polypay ram. He weighs close to 300 lbs and Kevin had a workout doing him. He is gentle though as opposed to some rams. We have used him two years for breeding. He came from University of Wisconsin via Ohio. The Farmer believes in buying good breeding stock and trying new breeds. (Our flock is strictly a cross-bred operation.) This guy's progeny were shorn for the first time and their wool was gorgeous - white and soft and fine. We'll be using him one more year. The ultimate goal of breeding with the Polypay is to bring more twinning into the flock - the gorgeous wool is an extra.

Aesthetically, he isn't my idea of a gorgeous sheep. In this photo, you can see how much taller he is than the ewes that are 1 1/2 years old. 


Here we are close to the end of the day on Monday. It couldn't end early enough for me! 

I know you are wondering what we do with all the wool. This year, as last, we plan to sell it in one fell swoop to another farm who will be supplementing their flock's production with ours. They will be making blankets with it. At this point in our farm business we don't have the time, money or interest in producing yarn or  blankets with our wool. We are happy to move it out of here and collect some money towards the shearing. It may not always be that way but it is now.

This is a photo of the elusive lamb with the black patch on his eye. He couldn't escape me the other day. 


Have a great weekend everyone. Hope it cools down soon!


SarahVV said...

What a fascinating post and process! And so cool to see the blade shears, too. I was definitely wondering where all the wool would go, so thanks for answering that question. Is it an anonymous farm that will get the wool, or one with a website we could check out? Thanks again for sharing!

Auntie Shan said...

I'd been wondering about how well the stock had been handling this humidity... Hope Kevin really does get paid WELL!

After almost 3 weeks, we're FINALLY getting some RAIN today! Been Thunder-Showering on & off all afternoon. The Jury is still out on whether it'll be enough to cut down that humidex!

-- Playing-With-Wool-in-My-Basement!

hawknitr13 said...

just looking at Kevin bent over makes my hurting back hurt even more!! he must be a saint for doing that strenuous work for hours & hours!! loved this informative post!!
^)^ linda

Anonymous said...

I love the photos. But of course I have a "thing" for sheep. :) I'm delighted the wool shorn will have a good use! Of course if a bag full ended up here, I'd figure out how to clean and spin it pronto. The heat is still here today in southern Ontario, even after the big storm last night, but we're to have cooler temps tomorrow, and for a few days at least. I hope you get some cool too! This heat has been awful! sammatravelry
p.s. I think the ram is gorgeous! Such a huge noble head!

Anonymous said...

I love that sheep with the patch. What a beauty. Can you tell us who is going to be making the wool blankets. I am in the market for a few. Darrlaa

Anonymous said...

Why do you have some of the sheep shorn with electric shears and some shorn with hand-powered ones?

MicheleinMaine said...

It seems like it's always a hot week when you do the shearing but I wonder if this was the hottest one yet?

Much cooler here in Maine today; I really hope these comfortable temps reach you too!

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi all - great questions. As for the farm we are selling to - I don't want to share that name because I do not know how they market the wool.

As for Kevin's blade shears - he prefers them. I think the choice is a matter of the shearers preference. It is also easy for him to find a place to shear b/c no electricity is needed. We can be out in a field in the middle of nowhere and still shear.

Sheep Camp adventures of a Shepherdess said...

I am so surprised at the size of your Polypay ram. When we first started up and went looking for the sheep we wanted to raise, we looked at some Polypay that had come from the original stock out of Idaho. They were no where close to the size of your ram. In fact that is the very reason why we did not choose them. They were to small for what we were looking to do. It is amazing to see a shearer that shears by hand (Blade). God Bless them.