Spring Shear

Well, spring is well and truly here…and the unofficial beginning of summer on Monday promises to bring some hot weather.

The pastures are gushing with sheep food:


And the sheep were roasting in their woolen coats:


It is also the time for internal parasites to start flourishing. We wormed the sheep prior to them lambing, because the stress of lambing can reduce their resistance to the parasites, but now that things are warming up, the animals are shedding eggs which live in the warm, wet pastures and are re-ingested by the animals when they eat the grass. I know – it sounds nasty, but that’s animals for ya…we just can’t train them to eat off plates or use a toilet, so pastures just get yucky! Something we are trying to reduce reinfection is to rest a pasture. Today we will mow and lime the pastures that the animals were on during the winter. Over time, the parasites will die and not be able to complete their life cycle if we deprive them of their host by keeping the sheep off the pasture for several weeks.

Part of what we do to monitor parasite related disease in the flock is to check the animals inner lower eyelid for pinkness. We have a card with several shades of pink on it which correspond to varying levels of anemia. More anemia is associated with more stomach worms (called barberpole worms because they have a red stripe down them.) All of the animals were checked, and only a couple will need to be treated.

Here are our supplies, all ready and waiting:


This is an “all hands on deck” operation, and preparation is paramount!

After checking their eyelids, it was time to trim off all of that winter hoof growth. Here’s Clancy being a good boy for his pedicure:


Next I had to move in with the shearers for their spring clip. As I mentioned in a previous post, many of the animals are having a natural wool break, called “rooing”, so this clip wasn’t as difficult as the fall clip.

We first put them into the fitting stand:


This was one of the ewes. You can see the wool coming off in a lovely blanket of fleece.


Next, the best fleece goes to the girls over at the skirting table:


The separate out the bad bits of wool and bag the good stuff.


Is this gorgeous, or what? (Excuse the finger in the picture…the younger children were in charge of camera operation, and they actually did a pretty good job!)


“Hey, Monty…Check it out! You’re next, punk!”


“Oh please, no! Maybe if I stand still here in the corner they won’t see me!”


“Does my new hairstyle make me look fat? Wait…don’t answer that…”


Get those shears clean…


And bring in the ewes and lambs!


Same routine for the ewes, but in addition, we dosed the lambs with a gel supplement (orally) of Vitamin E and Selenium.  Our soils are quite Selenium deficient in this part of the country, so we have to supplement this mineral for the sheep.  This is the lambs’ first dose.  The ewes were given an injection of a longer acting form of this before the lambs were born.


Then we had a little issue…


Our ewe yearling, Roxanne, was looking pretty stressed and starting to twitch all over and couldn’t walk properly. Quick thinking made us realize she was probably hypocalcemic (milk fever) from the stress of shearing and heat on top of feeding her lamb. It was time to work fast so that she wouldn’t get any worse. We gave her a large amount of calcium solution and an intravenous shot of steroids. Thankfully, within an hour, she was up and grazing again. Phew!

All in all a good afternoon’s work. All the sheep are going to be cooler and their feet look a lot better. The only really funny thing was that their lambs were SO confused, trying to figure out who their mother was, since they all looked SO different! They were baaing all around the pasture last night, running to and fro. I think they’ve got it figured out today…


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