The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: docsal on June 07, 2019, 10:30:52 am

Title: Sheepskin advice
Post by: docsal on June 07, 2019, 10:30:52 am
We have our first ram lambs approaching slaughter weight (I think..... hairy Hebs, so hard to tell what size they are under all that wool!). I would really like to have sheepskins as well as meat but as a complete novice am unsure re best timing and trade-offs for meat/skin. If I sent them off now, they have wonderful long, crimpy fleeces. If we keep them I will need to have them sheared. In this case - how long will it take for the wool to re-grow to an optimum length???

Apologies if these are silly questions but I am really committed to trying to make best use of every part of the animals (and even have a buyer lined up for the skulls/horns!)
Title: Re: Sheepskin advice
Post by: fsmnutter on June 07, 2019, 11:17:35 am
When were they born? If they're last year's lambs, the fleece will be close to rising for shearing, which means it's no longer attached to the skins and will come off in processing. The ideal time for having long haired skins is around September/ October before any new growth starts pushing the old hairs out.
Title: Re: Sheepskin advice
Post by: SallyintNorth on June 07, 2019, 11:19:59 am
First off, you should check with your tannery.  We use Devonia, and their equipment doesn’t work well on skins where the wool has a staple length of more than about 4”. 

Next, check the fleece yourself.  Some primitives can start to self-roo, where the fleece comes away by itself.  Once the sheep is starting to do this, there’s a weak spot in the staple and it’s likely to fall apart in the processing.  Because of this, many people say the sheep should have been “born or shorn” within the year you send them off - but Devonia do not stipulate this.

So the easiest answer is to shear then wait about a month.  The fleece is still quite short at that point but will make a lovely close sheepskin, suitable for a baby rug if you want.  If you want a fluffier one, then I’d say wait two to three months after shearing.
Title: Re: Sheepskin advice
Post by: Fleecewife on June 07, 2019, 01:26:46 pm
Hebs really need to be 16 months old before they go for slaughter.  You won't get the same soft first fleece look from them, even if the fleece has grown back. So you have a quandary - send off as babies before November of the year of birth when the carcase will be tiny, or wait til they are big enough to eat and have rougher, less curly fleeces.  In fact the first year fleeces will have to be dipped in water (just the wool, not the skin) then air dried on the line in a stiff breeze, to get that lamby look back.  The tannery can brush them but they look rather daft!
To estimate the lamb's weight, get your bathroom scales, standing on level concrete, weigh yourself, then weigh you holding lamb, do a little sum and you have the lamb's weight.  Halve that and you have a rough idea of the carcase size on the hook.  14-25 kgs is fine, but 9 kgs is too tiny to be worth it, and will not have grown much muscle by then.
Title: Re: Sheepskin advice
Post by: docsal on June 07, 2019, 02:27:21 pm
Thanks all - really helpful advice - been 'googling' it for hours to no avail........ should have come here first!
Will have them sheared then wait 'til Sept or so. They were born last Feb and am guessing they are def heavier than my grandson (10kg) and maybe about the same as my 7 year old (18kg). Not sure I can keep hold of ram/keep my balance on and off scales with them  :D
Title: Re: Sheepskin advice
Post by: Fleecewife on June 08, 2019, 01:15:03 am
It really is worth checking the weight of your sheep accurately, until you get the hang of estimating their weight just by a quick lift.  Another simple method is to get a weighing scale with a hook on it (clock face type - they now do digital ones but they take ages to come from China or Oz) which weighs in kg up to at least 50kgs (I think ours goes up to 100kg).  Make a rough sling out of a feed sack and a rope, adjust under the sheep's belly until you have the centre of gravity right, then lift and hang the hook on a rope over a beam.  They don't need to come far off the ground, but a helper would be a good idea.