Since it was sunny out and we parked the ewes outdoors in the alleyway, the ewes were moved around the bugle and into the single file raceway. One person and dog looked after this task. There is another person or two along the raceway to keep the flow of sheep going up to the shearing floor. Sheep are masters at backing up when they reach every suspicious spot along the way, even stepping over anti-backup bars. Gates along the way and butterfly doors seem to be the best at preventing them from backing up.
Most of the extra help is utilized around the shearing floor. As soon as a fleece is shorn from an animal it is picked up off the floor, out of the way of the shearer who is moving to get the next sheep. The fleece is tossed onto the skirting table where it undergoes a quick skirting. The tags (any wool containing manure) are tossed aside, the belly wool and wool from the neck area (often the most contaminated part of a fleece) are bagged together. The remainder of the fleece is rolled and placed in the maw of the wool packer. Throughout this process, the shearing floor is regularly swept to clear it of bits of wool. We are set up for six shearing stations and with six shearers shearing at once there is a constant flow of fleeces coming off the floor. There isn’t time to be choosy about skirting, you skirt quickly and clear the table for the next fleece.
The shearers are a hired crew, all from within our province, two of them are women. The two visiting shearers were from New Zealand.
Throughout a day of shearing I’m pretty much in all places at different times, moving sheep, picking fleeces, skirting, packing, and then tending to coffee, lunch and supper details. It really is a whirlwind of a day but made so much the smoother by the helping hands. The day goes by fast and at the end we’re all ready to put our feet up.
As for the guardian dogs, they follow the sheep when the flock comes in, however, they make themselves scarce once the action begins. Oakley always comes by to see what’s going on but then finds a place to sleep for the day. Lily, Zeus and Wren are not interested in visitors and were hardly seen throughout the day. I placed Tex, Whiskey and our new pup (I have to catch you up on that addition) in a dog run for the day for safer keeping. Whiskey and Tex both like to be right in with the sheep and the pup is often underfoot.
|The night before shearing day; Whiskey sitting with ewes|