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shearing 2009

Posted 3/15/2009 9:15pm by Catskill Merino.
Brooding Ewes
No lambs today. Odd. Usually I'll find early arrivals. Tomorrow marks 5 months since the rams joined the ewes.  I look in on the ewe flock more often now, waiting too.
The temperature today was in the high 50's and dry; this is good weather to lamb outside, but as insurance we lamb near a barn to bring lambs and ewes inside if they are having trouble during inclement weather; an absence of problems at parturition and good weather means no barn and no special care for the sheep. When a ewe has a good birth and a healthy lamb, all we do is dip the lamb's navel in iodine, eartag it, record the ewe's number and let mom & lamb(s) go.  This is what I call modified pasture lambing where we help those who need help and let the rest do what they do best, be sheep.  Pasture lambing means letting nature take her course and that road leads to life or death; but with a small flock of 200 lambing ewes I can help the weak, and I do.
Notice the blow marks of shearing: good shearers leave ridges of wool on the sheep rather than taking another blow to slick shear the sheep (making it look pretty & well shorn), thereby losing this short wool (called a 2nd cut) between the slats of the skirting table.  
We will keep wool to spin that has a staple length of 3"; anything shorter is devalued or lost.  If a shearer leaves wool on a sheep, it will be there to shear next year; good shearing looks like sloppy shearing to the unschooled eye.
Posted 3/10/2009 8:07pm by Catskill Merino.
Michael shears the belly of a ram lamb
On March 2nd and 3rd we sheared the flock.  David Hughes, in charge of operations at the Union Square Greenmarket—market in & market out—came up to video the shearing: the goings on and the comings off.
Tom shears around an ear
The neck is the hardest part of a merino to shear
 Chris cleans a fleece on the skirting table
Crowding to the windows for warmth from the sun
427 the day before
427 the day after

Shearing almost 400 sheep took two days—two very cold days—but we got through it, as we always do, with an excellent crew: Tom and Michael, the shearers with Mark, Dominique, Chris, Clyde, Chalmers and me, the roustabouts. The fleece is exquisite and the sheep are fine.

Posted 3/5/2009 7:38pm by Catskill Merino.
Light on Shearing
In one of the coldest spells of the year, the setting sun streams through the cob-webbed windows of the Persoon's abandoned, 83-cow dairy barn where we sheared almost 400 sheep; the temperature was in the teens during the day with winds blowing snow sideways and it dropped to well below zero at night factoring in the wind chill.  Inside the barn, protected from the wind, the shorn sheep were comfortable; their body heat warmed the low-ceiling space.
Posted 2/6/2009 6:39pm by Catskill Merino.
Rams Sunset

Tonight the low will be 12°F and tomorrow the high will be 41°F; this looks to be the beginning of a warming trend.

Temperatures in the 50's consitute a heatwave for sheep in fleeceBut still, I want it warmer than it's been for them: we shear the flock March 2nd & 3rd; that's 24 days from today—the 10 day forecast is sunny days with temperatures in the 40's while nights will drop into the 30's—and we need dry shearing weather too; but this is unlikely in March which, if not the cruelest month,  is certainly the wettest.