It is that time of year again, to shear sheep. It is, in fact, past time to shear sheep. Because the weather has not been cooperative, we did not shear as planned in October and are just now getting the task completed. In theory, sheep should be sheared about two to four weeks prior to lambing. I say ‘in theory’ because if lambing happens when it’s still cold then you kill the sheep. Some farmers here in Uruguay (not many) put on coats (not what Megan considers real sheep coats, rather feed bags with ties on for the neck and back legs) so that they can shear when cold. Farmers with barn put on coats but also the sheep get to stay warm and cozy in a barn and not out on pasture. But for those of us without barns, real coats would be useful but feed bag coats only work if it’s not exceedingly windy or going to rain. This year we lambed in September, as we have in the past. Which was very stormy. So not good shearing weather, even with make-shift coats. As usual. What wasn’t usual is that it then went cold rather than warm and we didn’t get to shear a few weeks after lambing as we have in the past. Hence the late shearing.
Last year we bought shears and hired a man to come shear using our equipment. This year, one of our guys, Ruben, knows how to shear, so we did not need to go with someone else’s schedule. We have been shearing in groups, a few sheep each day instead of a marathon day of shearing. It has worked out well for us. Ruben has also been able to teach Oscar how to shear, and the two have been taking turns Alejandro supervises it all and keeps it happening smoothly. Jon has even stepped in to help.
Megan hasn’t skirted any of the fleece yet so we don’t know how many second cuts we are dealing with, the quality of the shearing, or the state of the wool. One of the only drawbacks to having Ruben shear – he’s not a professional. But second cuts aren’t necessarily avoided with professionals either. Prior to shearing the wool was evaluated ‘on the hoof’ for breaks, fever, etc. which helped a bit for how many wool bags we needed. And which sheep Oscar could learn to shear on.
The mamas have been sheared, but the babies still have their coats. Can you see the difference?