Monday, 8 June 2015


Mutton inspects my new haircut
Shetland sheep are supposedly self-shedding. This means that their winter coat drops off leaving them nice and cool for the summer. That's the theory. However, most of our Shetland sheep have shown very little sign of this happening. They have rubbed against whatever they could find to rub against but still most of their long winter coats stay attached - which means that they have been starting to get rather hot. Not only that, but long wool, especially at their back end, can get a bit messy. With more and more warm muggy days on their way, this leads to a severe risk of flystrike - maggots! At best, this makes a sheep very ill. It is often fatal if not caught early.

Rambo and Doc, pre-haircut
One of last year's lambs is sporting its summer coat after virtually all it's fleece came off in my hands in one go. The ewe who had twins has turned into a patchy mess, which can be a problem with self-shedding breeds - this sometimes leads to misinformed calls to the RSPCA from well-meaning members of the public. Finally, Rambo has enjoyed me plucking his wool from his neck - a practice known as rooing. However, most of his wool is just not ready to come off yet.
But the rest were showing very few signs of losing their coats.

Last weekend was the Fenland Smallholders Club sheepy day. We enjoyed a demonstration of shearing, dagging, foot-trimming, injecting (I looked away) and applying flystrike chemicals. There was a great turnout, with many new members which was encouraging.

I felt totally inadequate as the two shearers turned the sheep onto their rumps and the sheep just became totally docile, sitting there as if in a comfy armchair. Whenever I handle the sheep, they have a habit of kicking and squirming, which makes it quite a tiring process for both them and me!

Sue had arranged for the shearers to come over to our smallholding later that same day, so at 7 in the evening I found myself driving the sheep up to the top paddock. Luckily this went smoothly, given that we were being watched by professionals. I was also encouraged by that fact that, in the hands of these experienced sheep handlers, our feisty Shetlands still kicked and struggled. It certainly made me feel better!

Anyway, after about an hour our sheep were sporting new haircuts. They also looked about a third the size.

I was so impressed that I had my roughly biannual shearing myself. So no flies on me!


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