Post-Shearing Reflections on the Condition of the Herd

Somehow, a group of shorn sheep has a starker, more honest appearance than an unshorn group.

For starters, I can see that my sheep are shivering.  Mary’s shearing schedule is delicate, and I knew I had to keep my appointment despite the forecast for chilly weather the past two nights.  I’ve been feeding lots of corn to keep them full and energized, and they seem active and happy, though chilled.  I feel bad that human schedules had to interfere with sheep-schedules so blatantly.  After shearing, Mary thought that my sheep seemed lean.  Not overly thin, but lean.  Feeling Agnes’ and Ida’s backs, I think I have to respectfully disagree.  I’d say they’re at condition score 2.5.  They probably need to get to 3, and the corn will help that a lot.

Second, it is now abundantly clear who is pregnant, and who probably isn’t.  Both of Peggy’s pretty girls, Ida and Esther, are growing udders and have a wide, awkward midsection.  Agnes, in contrast, has two tiny, fatless teats on a flat lower abdomen.  Probably not pregnant.    Valentine is undecided- more udder than Agnes, not as clear as Ida and Esther.  We’ll see!  Up at my house, Martha doesn’t have much of an udder, but has spent much more time with a ram so if she ever came into heat she has surely conceived.  Her abdomen is larger and I imagine she’s just due later on in April or May.  Ida and Esther are my smallest lambs-  I’m torn, because I love Valentine and especially Agnes’ wool (soooo buttery soft and thick!) but early maturity is a great trait too and the prize clearly belongs to Ida and Esther there!

Sheep and Pickle Farm Ewe Lambs
Two seemingly pregnant girls
Sheep and Pickle Farm Ewe Lambs
Agnes…looking a little less promising.

 

Speaking of the sheep at my house, both of them have mild fleece rot, a result of being wet too regularly.  Because they feed outside and not under shelter, they’ve had more experience getting snow on their backs, which they were unable to shed because of their fine wool.  Coats will help a great deal with this, as a coat will allow them to shake the snow off before it permeates and melts.  I’ve learned a valuable lesson here- the finer the wool, the more specialized the care.   I am starting to think that I might have to treat Earl and Martha like a separate breed that I am raising with a different care and grazing plan and different rams and ewes.

Some good news about Martha?  I thought she had very weird conformation, with a high bum and low shoulders and a weird head.  It turns out that the way her fleece hung made her *look* strange, but there’s nothing wrong with her build and I don’t need to be nervous about propagating her genes.  Phew!

Sheep and Pickle Farm Breeding Stock
All the ewes, just looking cute.

It’s disconcerting to have a moment when one’s management and care come into very plain view.  Everything I did right and everything I did wrong is now revealed from the veil of wooliness.  Though there are improvements to be made, I am on the right track and I feel like I am seeing clearly what needs to change.