Last week a couple of shearers came by and relieved the home flock of their fleece. The majority of the sheep were ewes who will start lambing close to the end of the month.
We have the sheep shorn shortly before lambing for a few reasons. The main reason is it allows the shepherd to keep a better eye on pregnant ewes. The shepherd will be able to see if the ewe is dilating, having discharge or presenting a lamb.
Shearing now enables the lamb to be better able to find its mother's teats. A lamb may exert all its energy sucking on a bit of wool thinking it's a teat. Removing the wool eliminates this possibility.
Shearing now also keeps them cooler during the lambing process. If the nights are cool (as they are now), a ewe will be more apt to lamb indoors rather than out. If she still has wool, she will be comfortable outdoors in the cool night and the lamb will be born outside on a cool night.
In time the wool will regrow and provide protection from the sun and flies during the summer.
Photo: One of the shearers, Ivan, going through the motions. He's using a Heiniger One Shearing Machine.
Photo: Toward the beginning of the shearing process, Ivan gave a lesson on the two different shearing styles that he is familiar with, Australian and New Zealand. The plywood board provides the shearer with a solid place to stand, keeps the ewe off the dirt and helps the fleece stay cleaner during the shearing process. The board was periodically swept of debris.