Rather than re-cap the familiar sheep shearing day and photos I thought I’d share some of the behind the scenes logistics of shearing a mid sized flock and hosting a shearing course.
The shearing course is organized through our provincial sheep board. The same guys who do our shearing, run and instruct the shearing course. We act as hosts, providing the place and the sheep. However, because we have too many sheep to get done during a two day instructional course, a crew of four to five arrive the day before to shear the first half of the flock or better.
There are two criteria our shearers like when shearing sheep. Sheep with dry wool and empty bellies. When shearing happens over three days and you have several hundred animals this means a lot of juggling, especially if rain is threatening. You want to keep the sheep dry but you also want them to be able to eat up until you have to hold them off feed.
We woke last Thursday morning to snow on the ground and still falling. By 6:30 am Allen, myself and two dogs were bringing sheep through the yard and packing them in the shearing shed. Our shearing shed is situated in a 12 acre paddock with no outside alleyways or crowd pens around it yet. Just a building in a paddock. Outside holding pens are in the plans for this year.
We keep the shearing shed empty of pens etc. so we can fit the flock into it. The rams had to be moved up to the yard and set in the Quonset to keep them seperate from the ewes but also somewhere dry.
It snowed and rained all morning and into the afternoon. A shed full of snow-damp woolies for several hours, while it continued to rain, created a lot of humidity. We were getting fearful that the wool would not dry sufficiently. We opened up side wall panels and the front and rear doors of the shed to get air flow. This helped considerably.
With the shed full of animals there is no room to feed them while we wait out the weather. At 2:30 in the afternoon the rain let up. We let the sheep out so they could have a chance to eat. Previously we set hay bales in the paddock so we could let sheep eat but keep them nearby the shed. The wind picked up and blew steady, which helped dry the wool out.
While the sheep were outside we got busy inside. Putting down the shearing floor, setting up an alleyway, finishing the hanging rail for the shearing equipment, and gathering shearing day odds and ends. Then it was off to feed dogs.
The girls had a full evening of grazing and then were back in the shearing shed for the night. The sky was dark and cloudy and we couldn’t risk them being rained on overnight.
The shearing crew is due to arrive late afternoon the next day, which I’ll continue writing about in Post II.