The Bluefaced Leicester is one of the most well known sheep breeds in the UK today, and arguably one of the most important. Easily recognisable with its aquiline nose, pronounced ears and deep blue skin it is popular for crossing and is used as a terminal sire for nearly 50% of the UKs commercial breeding flock. Its popularity as a terminal sire, however, has led to a divide within the breed with two distinctly different looking types. This has led many to call for the Bluefaced Leicester to be divided into two distinct breeds, the traditional and the crossing-type.
Fleece and Fibre
Fleece has always played an important part in farming, and the wool trade is currently relatively strong after a lengthy depression. Just as there are specific words for counting sheep (Yan, tan, tethera, etc) there are also words that are used for counting weights of fleece. These are no longer used today but were vitally important when farmers were selling their fleeces. 7lbs of fleece is a clove, two cloves are a stone. Two stones are a tod, six and a half tods are a wey. Two weys are a sack and 12 sacks are a last.
Stone (two cloves)
Tod (two stones)
Wey (six and a half tods)
Sack (two weys)
Last (twelve sacks)
The Castlemilk Moorit has an interesting history. While some sheep breeds have been around for centuries or have been developed for better meat or fleeces, this breed’s purpose was primarily aesthetic.
It is that time of year again, when our woolly friends are looking decidedly shaggy and a little bit warm. Many people have already sheared, especially if they are intending to show their animals, however those who don’t have shelter, or don’t intend to show are still planning ahead. We often get asked the best way to handle fleeces destined for the mill at shearing time, so we’ve put together our top tips which should help you out in the shearing shed.
1. Know what you want; if you are able to work out which fleeces you want to keep while they are on the animal, all the better. This will make sorting much easier, as you can have these sheep shorn first (or last) and keep the fleece separate for a more thorough going over later on.
I spent the day on Wednesday and again on Saturday in the Shearing Shed at the Bath & West Show, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
We helped last year too. On these days there are demonstrations and talks all about wool and shearing, while the sheep shearing competitions happen on the Thursday and Friday. The demonstrations included hand blade shearing, which uses the same tools as used over 4,000 years ago and are still used extensively, mechanical wheel-driven shearing (by humans!), a wonderful 1952 Lister steam engine which drives 4 shearing sets and modern electrical shearing. You can gues which drew the largest crowds!