In a previous blog we talked about lambing our sheep, now that it’s sizzling hot in the Peak District it’s time for sheep shearing, another major event in the farming calendar.
Shearing is an important part of sheep husbandry and crucial to their welfare. If their woolly fleeces are not removed sheep can overheat, and they can also get infested with maggots which eat away at their flesh – yuk – which is detrimental to their health and most unpleasant all round! You may sometimes see strange straggly looking sheep because if you don’t shave the wool the sheep will naturally rub their hot fleeces off bit by bit.
Each adult sheep is shorn once each year (a sheep may be said to have been “shorn” or “sheared”, depending upon dialect). Shearing season runs from the end of May to the middle of July, depending on location of the farm and the local climate. Being roughly 1,000ft above sea level and in the hills we usually shear at the beginning of June.
Sheep shearing is a very quick process. We have contractors who come in to shear the sheep for us as it is a real skill which takes years to perfect. They use speedy electric clippers and have to be extremely careful not to nick the skin with the blades as often the sheep are wriggling about. Although shearing is a quick process per sheep, only taking a couple of minutes, it is also physically demanding and back breaking.
I think we have the fastest sheep shearer in Derbyshire!!
Whilst they are all rounded up we take the opportunity to do other little jobs with the flock like worming, spraying with fly repellent, renewing the flock mark (ours is orange on the back of the neck) and trimming feet where necessary.
You can hear when we are shearing as we separate the lambs from the ewes to avoid the lambs getting squashed. Once the sheep and lambs are turned back out in the field together there is a lot of very loud baaing as they all try to find each other. Once nude the sheep look very strange! I wonder if the lambs find it difficult to recognise their mothers who look completely different without their woolly jumpers on!