Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shearing begins - or - Why shear now?

Basil being sheared last year. We'll shear her again this weekend.
We always try to shear before our ewes lamb and does kid. There are several reasons for this - our sheep and goats are out on pasture. We will bring them into pens and shelters with their babies when necessary, but they mostly manage just fine on their own.
1. If the mamaas are covered up in the thick wooly coats that they are wearing now, they cannot share body heat with their babes when they lay down together.
2. Lambs and kids have very short coats. If their dams also have very short coats, they know when it's cold enough to take the babies into the shelter.
3. Lambing and kidding is stressful and causes a metabolic change in the ewe/doe. This causes a break in her wool/mohair. So, if we shear right before birthing, then we are shearing at a natural break.
4. We don't want fleeces to get dirty with birth fluids.
5. We want the babies to be able to find the udders.

So, why don't we wait until later in the year to breed, so that we don't have to shear when it's still cold? Again, there are many reasons.
1. Most breeds of sheep and goats are seasonal breeder, they will breed September - December for babies in February-April. In our flocks, we seem to have a few that push the boundaries on the late side, but nobody seems to start cycling early.
2. We live in Arkansas, where everything grows well (usually, last year's drought is an exception, I sincerely pray) - including pests and parasites. The barber-pole worm is just one of many that infects sheep and goats and is happiest at above 60-degrees and 60% humidity. We have a decent parasite management plan, but I want my kids and lambs to have a start before the parasites. The babies born in February and March grow better and are stronger and healthier than those born later.
3. Here, our first flush of green is starting right now. By the time our girls are dropping their babies, we'll have a bright new pasture, with all its good vitamins and minerals for milk production and healing.

So, enough lecture mode.

When we did body score and FAMACHA eye checks on everybody this Sunday, we also checked udders. I have the dates when we put the girls with the boys this year, and it looks like in most cases, they got right to work.
I knew that Cowslip did not take on her first visit to Boomer in September, but she seems to have settled on the next go-around. Demi is bred to Dan for lambs the end of Feb., early March and Basil is bred to Boomer for his first lambs of the season. Tillie and Gamma seem to have worked it out with Herkimer for late February babies. He seemed so shy when we put him with the girls, but I guess they liked that approach.

This weekend we'll be shearing those four. If you are interested in fleeces, lambs or kids, give me a call, send an email, message me on Facebook or leave a comment here and I'll get back to you. We only bred 9 ewes this year and 5 angora does, due to the drought, but we will have some babies for sale.

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