Yesterday we sorted through a bunch of our ewes. Now that kidding is winding down, its time to get ready for lambs. We have 22 bred Cormo and Cormo Cross ewes – we think. The Cormo Crosses are our Natural Colored Fine Wool sheep. So, starting next week, we’ll be shearing some sheep as we prepare for lambing. We like to get the fleece sheared before the ewes lamb — for one thing it allows the lambs to find a teat with ease and for another it keeps the fleece from getting contaminated from the birthing process. We also have the remainder of our goats to shear as well – yearling does and bucks, adult does and bucks. So in the next few weeks we need to harvest the fleece off of about 100 animals.
As we shear, we do a “rough skirt”. That means we remove as much of the undesirable parts of the fleece as possible before putting the fleece into a bag. Undesirable parts include; any fleece with manure stuck to it ( these are called “tags” ), any fleece discolored by urine ( called “stain” ) , any parts with a lot of vegetable matter ( VM , the handspinners nightmare in fine wool ). We also separate the wool from the underside of the sheep’s body – the “belly wool” – and bag that separately. This wool can be very different from the rest of the fleece. Sometimes it is shorter in length, sometimes the crimp is different and sometimes it is of a different “fineness”. Most of our sheep are covered which keeps a large percentage of the fleece very clean and free from debris. This fleece is then carefully re-skirted, bagged and offered for sale. Some of our fleeces – the really special ones – are kept and entered into competition at some of the local fairs. There is nothing more beautiful than a pristinely clean, freshly sheared fleece.
This year, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Growers Association, a local sheep breeder’s association to which we belong, is having a Spring Fleece sale. It will be held on Saturday May 16 at the Elmendorf Inn in Red Hook, NY at 10:00AM. We’ll be participating with some of these beautiful fleeces. See you there?
7 Days ‘Til Spring