This week has been all about the sheep, with 24 hours off the rock to have some downtime. On the boat, dropped of gg and then quick look at a cattle mart NWA and hot chocolate at Cornthwaites, purchased a new tractor!
As you can see from the photos below I dusted of my shears and joined Dion to clip the big batches then left the Young Farmers some to do in their competition on Sunday. Feel free to come and watch them, we may even crack the BBQ open if it has a nice day! (See poster below for details)
When I was a lad I used to love shearing time, vest on, tan and get the muscles toned (farmer’s wife loves a bit of shearing muscles!), so this year I thought I better see if I still had it!! I do but I am paying for it now, the back is not what it used to be, 5 hours with my head lower than my A** is not very good!!
I have thoroughly enjoyed it though 😊
Education time – Why do we Shear Sheep? – good tan, good muscle tone … but now I am not a Young Farmer hmmmmm 😊
There are four main reasons to shear sheep
1. For The Wool – Money – (not at Ballakelly though)
On the rock & in the UK, most breeds of sheep have quite poor wool quality, which means it is not worth much. In most cases, the price you get for selling the wool is much less than it costs me to get Dion to come and shear them. If you read last weeks blog you would have noted that the wool cheque used to pay the rent bill, now it doesn’t even pay Dion to clip them!!
There are some flocks of sheep, mainly in New Zealand, which are bred just for the wool as it is of an exceptional quality, the aim is NOT to produce lambs to sell for meat, but just shear them for the wool. If the right breed of sheep is used (such as Merino), the price you get for the wool is higher than the price you would get from selling a pair of lambs for meat, (which is what the aim is on most commercial farms in Britain.). One thing that effects the quality of the wool is the male and female hormone, so on the wool farms they tend to use castrated males (Whethers), which of course do not have the relevant organs to produce hormones, and neither are they able to breed from them.
2. To Keep The Sheep Cool (Manx Summers not really essential)
As some breeds of sheep end up with a winter coat of wool that is two or three inches thick, then they do get rather warm on the hot summer days, as we would if we were to wear a jumper that thick when the temperature is 30 decrees Celsius. So, with less wool they are a lot cooler.
3. Stop The Wool Dropping Off Where You Don’t Want It (I do like to keep my farm tidy)
A lot of sheep will lose some of their wool naturally and end up looking quite tatty, and of course, the wool ends up wrapped round hedges and barbed wire which makes the field look very untidy, so, if the sheep are sheared you can control where the wool ends up, such as in a bag!
4. The Health Of The Sheep – Fly Strike (The Nasty One) – This is the animal husbandry reason we do it.
Fly Strike is where flies find a patch of damp wool and lay their eggs on it, which then hatch into maggots. These then eat their way into the flesh of the sheep. Over the next week, the sheep then gets septicemia and becomes very poorly often leading to death. If the wool is sheared off then the flies can’t find much to lay their eggs in. It really is as nasty as it sounds, luckily at Ballakelly we have very few cases and if spotted then dealt with before they become an issue.
Dion Hughes – Welshman here to help shear sheep 🐑 Swept the cobwebs off my shears and joined in this year has been 2 years!!! Held my own but I will know it tomorrow , this game is for the boys!!!!