Livestock Farming

The Wool Journey Part 4: Wool Attributes Amongst Breeds, Natural Colour and Health

Sonja Bargielowska's picture
23 August, 2017 - 14:00 | Sonja Bargielowska

Here we look at three important aspects of fleece and fibre: consistency/style, colour and animal health.

Consistency varies considerably between different breeds, within the breed and across the animal. We can have Gotland sheep, all of which have lustre longwool, with wide variations of thickness and crimp between different animals and a range of these across the body of an individual.

Images courtesy of The Fibre of my Being and Wovember

Food for mums and babies: nutrition at lambing

Sue Blacker's picture
9 March, 2017 - 10:52 | Sue Blacker

Lambs double in size in the last month in the ewe, which is a real challenge to the ewe to keep up with this as well as the additional situation of less room inside!   So feeding more frequently, twice or even three times a day, will regulate intake better and make it more effective.   Insufficient food can lead to dead lambs, or ewes, or twin lamb disease, poor quality colostrum and lower milk production.  Too much concentrated food can reduce the pH in the rumen, so quality is as important as quantity, and forage is key, with concentrates as a supplement.   Added yeast has been shown to be useful in improving colostrum quality and reduces the build-up of lactic acid in the rumen, which helps increase milk yield and quality.

Is it all in the soil?

Sue Blacker's picture
9 March, 2017 - 10:46 | Sue Blacker

Soil Photo from

We know that the correct minerals and trace elements are essential for good health of sheep, goats and alpacas – but how do we know what to do about this?

Firstly we need soil tests.  These are easier than you might think – you should take about 30 samples diagonally across the field, mix in a bucket to get a representative sample of the whole field then put some in a bag to post off for a soil test.  Ideally, soil testing should be done every two years, as rain, grazing and hay or silage cutting will all affect the soil balance.

The Post Truth Conference Season – good ideas and random thoughts …

Sue Blacker's picture
2 February, 2017 - 15:05 | Sue Blacker

There is a fashion in business and politics at present to look for strong leaders, perhaps always and not just at present …. I am a very strong leader when I wish to influence my sheep and am carrying a bucket of food – although at some times of the year my rams are less keen to follow me than to seek the ewes.  Elsewhere, I am less influential!

There is also a need for innovation, which seems to be a very human trait.  Necessity may be the parent of invention, and of course we have some of that at present.  Also of course, the cross-country and Telemark skiing mantra, “Free the heels, free the mind” is interesting – putting things into a different context will lead to new thinking.

Sheep and Death (a seasonal reflection!) (Part Two)

Sue Blacker's picture
22 December, 2016 - 11:22 | Sue Blacker

Image courtesy of the BBC

A difficult year?

We all also know that each year brings its own challenges, particularly the weather – too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, or mainly too much of these at a time!  My own experience this year has not been easy and I will share some of it … firstly the lambing was good, with two live lambs per ewe.  Some were rejected, so we ended up with two bottle-fed babies, which survived, even the ewe born weighing 0.5kg.  They were born in March-April and all went on well to weaning and then to first shear in early July, when the shearer remarked how well they looked.  However, we had problems with a couple of ewes, two with mastitis and one sudden death, for no apparent reason, so it is probably that some of the apparently healthy lambs were not getting all the nourishment they needed.  So fairly early weaning and shearing were additional stresses.

Sheep and Death (a seasonal reflection!) (Part One)

Sue Blacker's picture
22 December, 2016 - 11:15 | Sue Blacker

Image courtesy of Raw Story

Sheep are proverbial amongst the farming community for having a strong death-wish!  Indeed it is even said that no Blue-faced Leicester should be sold without an accompanying spade with which to bury it …

(We should point out that it is illegal to bury dead stock mostly, but this saying pre-dates current requirements!)

The main issue for sheep is that, although they have relatively few predators once past being tiny lambs, apart from out-of-control dogs, they are quite inclined to get both diseases and parasites, particularly if intensively farmed on land which has had sheep for many years.  This is of course exacerbated by their flocking instinct, so it’s a bit like primary schools as great incubators of infection.  Older animals can carry a level of parasites without problems if they are otherwise healthy, and have also been observed to self medicate from suitable herbs or ivy, whenever they get the chance, and to avoid plants poisonous to them, such as bracken or ragwort.

Sue's lambs had their first hair-cut this week

Sue Blacker's picture
14 July, 2016 - 16:28 | Sue Blacker

The lambs grow wool quite quickly and it is the finest and softest they will produce (even from Nathalie!).

So here they are last week:

The larger, darker ones with longer tails are the cross-bred Gotland/Blue-faced Leicester lambs and the paler smaller ones with short pointed tails are pure Gotland.

And here they are this week!

Sheep and Copper

20 June, 2016 - 13:30 | Lara Pollard-Jones

In my (Sue's) experience, the biggest single factor in health of sheep is the correct balance of minerals, which permits their immune systems to function optimally.  Thus for example, most sheep should not have much copper, though all need some, with downland and Texel sheep being particularly susceptible to copper poisoning, fine-woolled sheep intermediate, while Gotlands and Finnsheep are more tolerant than other breeds and indeed need a greater amount.

This is why it is important never to feed sheep with pig or poultry feed, which contains too much copper.  My sheep broke into the feed store and gorged themselves on pig food once and the greediest had the worst hangovers – luckily a vitamin injection was sufficient to get them back into a state of normality (as far as Gotlands are ever normal …).


30 May, 2016 - 13:30 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Though not everyone keeps sheep for meat, those who do will be aware that there are by-products from the abattoir which in most cases do not come back to the producer.  The most obvious are the skins, along with horns and offal usually.  Abattoirs sell these products elsewhere into the relevant trade but is possible to get skins back for tanning.

There are a few areas of red tape that have to be considered when sending sheepskins to the tannery.  This is mainly due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, along with strict rules regarding movement, skins were no longer permitted back on the holding that the animal came from.  However, since then the Animal By-Product Regulations came into effect which allows individuals to collect fresh skins from the abattoir.  In most cases an AB117 form needs to be complete to ensure that your skins are returned to be tanned.

Mules and Mashams

23 May, 2016 - 11:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Mules and Half Breds are the most common type of sheep in the country and make up a large majority of our commercial flocks.  They are good mothers and can carry twins, triplets or even quads!  They produce fast-growing, lively lambs which makes them perfect for the commercial meat market.  As well as this, some types of Mule also produce high-quality fleeces due to the rams that have been used as sires.

Teeswater x Dalesbred = Masham


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