Shearing 2014 for Sue's flock

Sue Blacker's picture
17 May, 2014 - 14:50 | Sue Blacker

'Twas on a Sunday afternoon the shearer came to call.  He was a bit late so the queue became a little impatient!

The girls were a bit less vociferous!

In the picture above, you can see the parting which is typical of Gotlands ready to be shorn on the ewe in the foreground.  The next stage would be a felt mat, which is why we shear twice a year ...

Here is the patient girl above being shorn by Gideon - she was the last of the 18 to be done ...

The first of the pictures above shows the long blows to the first side, then the second two are the final bits of the second side.  The term "blow" refers to each pass of the blades across the sheep and the key to speed is to use the minimum number.  It is also important to stretch the skin ahead of the blades, which can be seen in the second picture. 

The sheep is not being restrained, just moved around, in the athletic and elegant ballet of shearer and sheep which is now the most recognised shearing method, the Bowen Technique developed by Godfrey Bowen in 1950, updated to the Tally-Hi technique in 1963, which can reduce the time taken by up to 30 seconds.  Given that sheep can now be shorn with electrically powered shears in less than a minute, and hand blades in around 2 minutes each, the averages stand at around 400 sheep in a day, with records at over 700.  The legendary Jackie Howe, ( an Australian, was perhaps the greatest shearer in that his record of 321 sheep shorn using hand blades in 1892 was not beaten by a man with a machine until 1950.  Shearing all day is equivalent to running around 5 marathons.  Gideon is a bit slower (!), and Gotlands are a bit more difficult than average anyway.

And now for tea!

Meanwhile the boys are preening, in between eating of course ...

I should  mention they get a pedicure thrown in too (but not for free - or not for me anyway!).  Gotland feet are not the easiest to maintain and the flock in the UK is too small to cull out all problems as ruthlessly as might be possible elsewhere.  However, the added garlic in the diet and careful attention to deal with any problems early mean that only 4 of the boys and none of the girls had problems despite the very wet spring.  And now I hope to go back to the twice annual trim at the same time as shearing, though I am probably being a bit optimistic ...


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