Thinking that it would still be quite cool after our brutally cold winter, we scheduled our shearing for May 8th. What were we thinking? Our shearer, who incidentally has sheared Welsh Mountain Sheep in Snowdonia, North Wales, arrived in the afternoon on a very hot and humid 85 degree day. It was the last in a string of very hot and humid days. The sheep were hot, miserable, and on edge. To help things go more smoothly, we sent the sheep one by one through the chute. In the beginning most went willingly, not knowing what was waiting for them on the other side. They usually get grains. This day would prove to be quite different. Heidi was the first one out of the gate as usual. It took less than four minutes for her to lose seven pounds of fleece. What a difference! We couldn’t help but smile as we gazed at a sheep that we didn’t even recognize. Sahara changed color completely. Once her golden fleece was removed, she became a beautiful chocolate color to match her face. Dulce’s caramel color turned spotted, and Vivian took on a Black Welsh look with her black coat. Hep, the ram, who is usually right behind Heidi, wised up quickly and pushed all the ewes in front of him. Nobody argues with Hep. He kept growling and backing up until there was no one left but him. He was still growling when he was finally shorn. In the end, Hep still looked like Hep, the only one who still looked like himself. No problem picking him out in a crowd!
Two hours later, 32 very different looking sheep emerged from the barn. We all agreed that shearing had definitely enhanced the look of the Black Welsh. Gone were the red highlights. Instead they were now looking beautifully sleek and stunningly black. They matched the lambs, and our Black Welsh flock was once again color coordinated. The Icelandics, on the other hand, were not so lucky, particularly the white ones. They had so much fleece that they looked almost bald when shorn. A sorry sight indeed! When it was all over, we briefly wondered whether the lambs would recognize their mothers. Sure enough,the sounds of ewes and lambs started echoing through the pasture. The pursuit had begun, but it didn’t take long before they were all matched up again. None of the lambs were shorn, so they now seemed much bigger next to their mothers. Franny and Francois were nearly the same size now. Nearby, Hagar was curled up next to Heidi, his head nestled comfortably next to hers. I imagine that she was enjoying, perhaps for the first time, the feel of his wool as he rested against her. Not far away was a slimmed down Gretchen with her twins on either side.
What would a typical day be like if there were no surprises? Every day on the farm seems to bring us the unexpected, and this day was no exception. When it came time for our new Icelandics to be shorn, we were watching very closely. Many of them changed colors, and we were simply fascinated by the transformations. But even more interesting was the discovery that most of them were in fact pregnant. Very, very, pregnant. We knew the implications. All would have to be closely monitored. Even though we have been adding grains to their diet and providing them with excellent pasture, they are still yearlings and very small. We decided that the best plan would be separation from the rest of the flock during the day and confinement to our watch area next to the lambing pens at night. We could watch them on the camera through the night, while allowing them to feed on the best pasture during the day. With a plan in place, we made the necessary rearrangements in sleeping quarters, left the newly shorn sheep to their now very roomy barn, and headed back to the house. The animals were comfortable, and all was quiet, and we returned with the knowledge that our lambing season was about to start all over again!
To be continued…