Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why Shear in the Winter

Our 2010 Shearing Day is in early February. February offers some of the coldest weather potential. Some have asked why we shear our sheep in the Winter months. It seems like the sheep would get so cold without their wool. There's actually good reasons for shearing in late Winter.

Before the reasons, however, did you know the sheep get much of their cold weather protection from their fat and from the heat produced from digestion of the food they eat during the cold weather? Sure, the long wool helps, but it is not their entire protection. As long as they go into Winter with a good layer of fat, receive an adequate supply of nutritious food, and have shelter from the wind, they do quite well.

So why shear in February? The chief answer to the question: it helps with lambing! Lambing begins in earnest in mid-February.

Without their long wool:

1)  The ewes will seek shelter when it gets cold or snowy. When they seek shelter, they bring their lambs with them to the shelter! If the ewes were wooly, they wouldn't feel the cold as much, and the lambs (who are born with only a modest length of wool) would suffer.

2)  The lambs can find their mother's milk supply easier ... the long wool doesn't get in the way!

Rachel with her napping lamb, Betsy (March 2008)

Winter Arrives

December ushered in the first real cold blast of Winter to Grace Valley Farms. The coldest temperature we've seen, so far, is minus 18 degF ! Brrrr! Right now, we have 3-4 inches of snow on the ground and the nearby Beartooth Mountains are sporting their snowy crests.

The sheep are all decked out in their God-given wool coats, so the cold doesn't seem to bother them, too much. Give them a supply of the good quality Grace Valley Farms hay and a little shelter from the wind, and they are content. As you can see from the photos, the Romney and Romney-cross sheep are looking rather fluffy. Some of them look like cotton balls with legs!