When it gets to the end of May / the start of June and lambing is all wrapped up the next thing on our agenda is shearing. My partner runs a shearing business in the local area and can spend around 4 weeks solidly shearing flocks of sheep.
So why are sheep sheared? When it gets hot flies come out and look for somewhere to lay their eggs. Flies target sheep as the wool provides a warm safe environment for them to hatch into, the sheep also acts as a food source when the maggots hatch out. If the sheep are not sheared and they get maggots it can be very harmful- the sheep effectively get eaten alive from the outside.
You can take several steps to delay the need to shear- and the other night after my normal 9 – 5 , I arrived home from the office, to a quick change and up the sheep field we went.
We got all the ewes and lambs in to the pen- a fun game to start with- using our sheep dog, Poppy.
Once in the pen we then sectioned off the ewes into groups of around 10 in the sheep race. This is basically a metal structure that allows you to handle a small amount of sheep at one time. Once we had 10 sectioned in the race we removed the lambs- they don’t have fleeces that will have grown enough to cause problems so they just get in the way.
We then gave a quick check over the ewes looking for maggots- you can spot if any have maggots a mile off:
- Firstly it STINKS!, the smell of rotting flesh is very potent
- Secondly you can see them wriggling their tale and itching to try and get rid of the maggots
- Thirdly the density of the wool looks different
Any with maggots can have an early shearing appointment then and there to ensure no further damage and any with particularly messy bums that are likely to attract flies can have a quick dag. (Dagging is simply clipping the wool from around the bum)
Finally we spray each one with something called Crovect- this is a fly repellent spray. It’s a deterrent to the flies so they wont lay their eggs and actually kills any eggs that do get laid.
Once we have done the first bunch, it’s onto the next and so on until we have made it through the entire flock. We had around 90 to do altogether from this field and it took us about an hour and a half.
(If you think it’s a nice quite evening think again, this is just one of the ewes calling for its lamb during the process!)
Once complete it was back home for dinner and to iron my shirt for the next day! Job done, one happy sheep dog 🙂