Hooters Hall

Shearing Our Jacob Sheep

A few months ago we started thinking about how we were going to get our Jacob sheep sheared. The easiest way would of course be to pay a shearer to do it. Although it’s not too expensive shearers do tend to be in demand and sometimes difficult to find. Having read about other smallholders experiences we decided we’d like to try shearing ourselves. Luckily I found a hand shearing course at the Wimpole estate near Cambridge and booked us on it.

The shearing course was on 1st June and we spent the day shearing a variety of rare breed sheep. We weren’t the fastest shearers by the end of the day but a lot more confident about the whole process. We got to keep a fleece so I’ve been spinning the lovely Hebridean fleece that I got to bring home.

A week later it was time to put what we had learnt into practise. We were very lucky to have some help from two friends and to have good weather so we could do all the shearing outside. Although we do have an inside area that we can use, we discovered on the course that having as much light as possible makes the job a lot easier especially with dark coloured fleeces.

We penned all the sheep into the central area between the paddocks and set up a shearing pen next the sheep pen. We also used some exercise mats to shear on, which made it more comfortable when kneeling and moving the sheep around as well as making it easy to clear or wash away any urine or sheep droppings.

Here are the sheep waiting to be sheared all queuing up

We had several styles of shears a dagging shear, traditional type shear from Burgon and ball and a Jakoti shear. It was useful having the different types.I favoured the Jakoti shears which are a bit more scissor like than traditional shears and don’t look as lethal. We also had some spray on plaster in case we nicked the sheep at all.

With four of us we could take it in turns to hold the sheep or shear which made the job a lot easier. Generally we started off dagging the sheep (cutting off the bits with sheep droppings on) then shearing the belly before splitting the fleece up the neck and then shearing each side in turn.

Jim ram and some of the older ewes had very little wool on their bellies which made the job a lot easier. One of the older ewes had very saggy skin though, which caused some problems. All of the sheep got anxious when having their neck sheared as you might expect. Every so often they tend to struggle a bit but then calm down and sometimes completely relax. A tip we learnt from the shearing course was to try and keep their feet off the floor. If they can’t feel any ground under their feet they don’t try and run away.

Here’s our first sheared ewe

And a fleece

A few more sheared sheep including Jim the ram and a lamb that wasn’t sheared but managed to find himself in the wrong pen

We did four on the Saturday and the rest on the Sunday. We did get faster over the weekend so hopefully will be faster still next year. Here’s the flock post shearing back in the paddock

After skirting the fleece ( removing all the mucky bits) we rolled them up , let them cool down then put them into cotton pillowcases ready for washing and processing into lovely hand spun yarn.

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