Our ladies are now getting ready for winter and that also means they are getting ready to be mums. We will hopefully see the arrival of some gorgeous little lambs come March and April and our flock is currently being looked after in preparation to carry their little ones for a few months. One of the ways we prepare for this is to shear them.
A few weeks ago, all of our sheep went for a visit to the hairdresser and are now looking considerably less fluffy…
Why are they sheared in autumn?
As we are now in November and fast approaching the coldest time of year, it may seem strange that we have chosen to shear our ewes now, but it is common practice to shear Romneys twice a year. Other breeds are often sheared in the spring, so that they do not overheat in the summer. However, Romney fleece grows very quickly and is also very long and heavy, meaning that a bi-annual shearing is a good practice when it comes to flock management.
If Romneys were not sheared twice a year, their fleece could potentially cause them problems. An overgrowth of fleece around the eyes can cause wool blindness, where the sheep’s vision would be obscured, and a full year of fleece can weigh upwards of 6kg, which is not healthy to consistently carry around. Removing them of this weight means that our ewes will be more healthy and have a much better chance of conceiving a lamb, and even a greater chance of carrying more than one. It also means that the lambs will have less trouble finding the udders after they are born – without trying to burrow through all that fleece.
Additionally, having a heavy coat of fleece will also dampen some of the sheep’s instincts to find shelter during harsher weather – if they are sheared, they will be more likely to seek the shelter of trees and bushes to give them additional protection, though the UK weather is very rarely too severe.
Will the sheep be cold?
Since they were sheared a few weeks ago, our flock will already have a centimetre or two of fleece back, which will keep them warm. However, the Romney breed is especially hardy and are experts at withstanding all types of weather, not to mention resistant to many diseases and generally extremely well suited to withstand a lot rougher weather than the relatively mild UK winter climate.
What is the fleece like?
The Romney fleece has a long staple and has the finest fibre diameter of all the longwool breeds. It hangs in separate locks, so there are no cross fibres, which means that the fleece comes off in fine pieces when sheared, rather than in one piece as is often seen. Shearing twice a year also helps with this, as the fleece does not have a chance to become matted. The fleece is quite easily spun and should produce a high yield due to its low grease content.
This fleece is now on its way to be cleaned, scoured and spun and we are in the process of designing our ball bands and planning all the other exciting things ready to launch in 2019.
What about Baaarney?
Barney was of course sheared too – he needed a dapper haircut before he was introduced to the ladies for the first time.
We have also just welcomed another ram into our flock, so that Baaarney has another friend to play with and we can continue to grow our flock into the new year.
Please keep checking back on our blog when you can for more updates from our Marriner Flock – keep your eyes peeled for our own wool next year!