With this unusually hot weather we are having I noticed a few days ago the lambs were going backwards and not thriving. They were seeking deep shade very early in the mornings and panting in the hot stillness.
So I debated what to, start to feed them lamb nuts or shear them, I decided on shearing them.
I have found in the past that shearing my March born lambs in July has helped them put on more weight versus when not shorn mid summer. I discovered this quite by accident. Last year I was going away for a week for the first time in 5 years. I had someone who is not that sheep knowledgeable to look in at the sheep and count heads, but they would not have known what to look for as far as fly strike is concerned. So to hedge my bets I got the lambs all shorn before I left. By early September last year I noticed that the lambs were ahead of the themselves with weight gain and growth. So mid summer shearing had two benefits peace of mind while I was away, as well as additional growth.
The farmer who comes to shear for me is Andrew Forristal. He said he would be arriving about 9am while there was still some coolness in the air. So I went out before he came to bring in the lambs. First getting the ram lambs in who were already stretched out in the deep shade of the lime tree. As I approached I could smell the sweet lime blossom and hear the tree buzzing with pollinating bees. I shake the bucket of sheep nuts and up hop the small flock of boys.
I had to drive them up the lane way and into the yard.
Next was the ewe lambs who also had the hoggets and some of the dry ewes with them.
Having the hoggets and a few dry ewes with the ewe lambs makes bringing them into the yard much easier. The older sheep know where they are going and trot right into the yard, so not much pushing of the sheep.
The field that the ewe lambs and hoggets are coming out of has a very narrow white mettle gate.
There is always one sheep that makes life difficult for everyone else today it was Alice Capone.
Her cleverness at trying to go through the narrow bars of the gate means she closes the gate on everyone else who was behind her. So the following sheep have to put on their galloping breaks so as not to crashing into gate or Alice Capone’s backside.
Once the gate is sorted and all the ladies are up in the yard it’s time to get ready for Andrew’s arrival. We make a pen in the shadiest place in the yard so as to keep Andrew and lambs as cool as possible.
Zwartbles keep their long tails as this is part of the breed standard and when shearing them even the tip of their tail is trimmed.
A few of the lambs have a very short tight fleece which will not do for going down to the mill to get spun. I use these for mulching and weed suppressing around young trees. During this long dry hot summer the recently planted young trees still have moisture around them and what water we give them stays soaking in and not running off away from the young trees.
Once shorn and released the lambs find security with shorn friends.
The differance between the sun bleached tips of the unshorn with the glossy silky black of the just shorn is a beautiful contrast of Zwartbles wool color.
The gate trouble maker has her turn under Andrew’s shearing hands.
Alice Capone is the last one of the ewe lambs to have her fleece shorn away.
The hoggets and dry ewes who were shorn at the beginning of May already have the sun bleached tips on their fleece.
When all the lambs have been shorn it’s time to return them to the field. They are more than ready to gallop out the yard, back tracking from where they had come from this morning.
It is so much easier to bring them out to the field then up to the yard.
Now we are only left with the ram lambs to shear.
When the first lamb has been shorn they always seem embarrassed when returning to the flock of full fleeces cousins.
A sibling comforts his shorn brother.
When shearing a ram or ram lamb’s belly it has to be done very carefully as you don’t want to shear off a very important part of his anatomy.
When you get to the belly strokes you use your thumb to keep the important bits away from the cutting blades of the shears.
The bag of Zwartbles lambs wool is filling up.
I love the black silky almost marbled effect on the backs of the shorn lambs. So shiny almost looking like oil slicks.
The sun pushes the cool shadows back against the buildings as the day goes on.
As it gets warmer and warmer I can see the shorn lambs are feeling much easier then the ones that still need shearing.
Some lambs still are afraid and try to find a place to escape the shearing but end up only getting into the shearing trailer for a good view of what will be happening to them soon.
Apollo gets his fleece shorn before smiling Aloysius.
Finally it is Aloysius’s turn to get his hot fleece sheared off his hot and panting body.
Soon Andrew is down to the final lamb to shear.
Finally done the lambs are let out into the field happy to feel a bit of air and less full fleeced.
I walk up to the top gate to let them out into the bigger field I call to the boys and they come charging up the hill towards me.
They gallop past me through the gate, down the field looking like they are feeling full of life and much cooler even in the mid day sun.
I am left to clean up the scrappy bits of unmillable wool which will mulch the next young tree we plant.
The lambs wool will be joining all the other Pure Irish Zwartbles wool going to the mill to be spun into beautiful Pure Irish yarn and woven into blankets and travel rugs.