The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: SallyintNorth on November 29, 2012, 12:52:11 pm

Title: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 29, 2012, 12:52:11 pm
This conversation arose in another thread (about ear tagging), when Blacksheep mentioned that Zwartbles are supposed to be clipped in the winter in order for their fleeces to be judgable come the showing season.

I am intrigued by all this so would like to get a conversation going.

Not meaning to be provocative, just thinking out loud...  I have mixed feelings about doing cosmetics to sheep which then give rise to welfare issues...  Although I suppose show folk are always going to take very good care of their show sheep so I suppose the sheep should be ok....   :thinking:

And the other thought I had was this.  Is the fleece any good for spinners?  Do you clip again in the summer?  Is that then too short for spinners or not?

In Iceland they clip before housing and again in the summer.  I guess they don't autumn clip the sheep that winter outside...  One day I'll find out, we're plotting a trip to Iceland, maybe next year...

And I've just bought a delicious Teeswater lamb's fleece - I assume the lamb in question will be housed over winter now.  I guess there are a lot of places in Britain where a longwool fleece is a hazard in wet. mud, snow, hot ... goodness, when are the poor things actually comfortable?! 

I have a gazillion other thoughts in similar vein but will shut up now (for a bit anyway  ;)) to see what anyone else has to say!
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: YorkshireLass on November 29, 2012, 12:56:22 pm
I think Gotlands are sheared in autumn/winter too, if you know anyone with any to ask?
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Anke on November 29, 2012, 01:31:19 pm
I would normally (hand)clip my Gotland/texel girls in mid/late SEptember, otherwise the fleece will felt up. I would have thought that in Sweden (or Gotland?) the sheep will also be housed during the winter, although not sure on this.
I leave the bellly wool on them, makes for a really non-flattering look... and would only clip when there is a forecast for a few warmish days. If need be I can house them in an open-fronted barn for a few days until their skin adjusts.
Because of the bad weather (and the girls NEVER being dry) I didn't do it this autumn and will have to come up with a "Felting" plan for those.... peg-loom springs to mind....
On a different angle... I noticed my lambs have a really thick fleece this year, not sure how much will be there come next May....
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SheepCrazy! on November 29, 2012, 02:32:47 pm


Hi

There's a company in Wales that makes turn out rugs for sheep! On the same basis a horse rug, some Jacob breeders shear their show sheep in January (chilly) and then rug them up!

Hope that helps
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fleecewife on November 29, 2012, 03:02:02 pm
I'm all for the natural way  :eyelashes: .  We used to keep Jacobs but were not prepared to shear early just to show and as we didn't house them they needed their fleeces to live outside over winter.  Nor were we prepared to do all the primping and fluffing and trimming required to show Jacobs, and most other breeds, so we have gone for sheep which are shown 'straight off the hill' (most are of course still primped a bit  ::) )
 
There are some issues with Hebs being shown at the Highland Show.  Initially (classes have been held for Hebs at RHS since about 2000) they were all to be shown shorn, so breeders were shearing way back in the winter, to give a long enough fleece to judge.  Then we had a couple of exceedingly wet Junes (RHS is in June) and the welfare problems of early shorn sheep became evident.  So the current rule is that ewes with lambs are shown in full fleece, the rest must be shorn.  This is not satisfactory either, as in a hot year, ewes are heat stressed, especially in the show pens for 4 days, and in cold/wet years the gimmers and males shiver.
 
  A slightly different issue arises with Shetland sheep, which are a naturally roo'ing breed.  They too are shown in full fleece at the Highland Show.  This means that those showing must choose those sheep least likely to have lost their fleeces by late June.  This in turn selects away from self-shedding sheep ie the natural type.  A dilemma  :thinking:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: kanisha on November 29, 2012, 03:06:32 pm
hmm I admit after some reflection on this  i have yet to come up with a definate either way and have tried variously trimming rooing shearing long and everything in between. How can you judge the fleece without the fleece on the sheep but if its later in the summer.......does anyone have an answer?
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Blacksheep on November 29, 2012, 03:32:25 pm
I think some commercial farmers shear their ewes at housing, prior to lambing.

One high quality fleece producer I spoke with said that she shears her sheep at the start of winter for the best fleece for spinners and feltmakers.  This ensures that the fleece is good quality and at at cleanest without bits of hay etc in it, however there are significant additional costs for feed and bedding for the sheep that then spend the winter barned.

As sheepcrazy says you can get turnout rugs for sheep made, as well as use foal or large dog rugs, so anyone who is just having a couple of sheep shorn for showing later in the year could possibly try these.
Also I mentioned on the other post the shearer can use combs on his shears so that there is some coat remaining on the sheep after shearing.  If we can get our trimmer to come out to do a couple of ewes in February I will be asking him to use combs if possible. 

Whilst top show sheep will certainly kept mollicoddled and well fed by their owners, I don't like the trend with some Zwartbles breeders to keep them in through the show season to prevent any bleaching to their fleeces. I am also not sure that feeding a predominately concentrates diet would be that good for the sheep in the longer term either. 


Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 29, 2012, 03:52:24 pm
How can you judge the fleece without the fleece on the sheep but if its later in the summer.......

Well, speaking as a spinner, I want the fleece judged off the sheep - there are things you can't know until you see the fleece on its own! 
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: lachlanandmarcus on November 29, 2012, 04:02:29 pm
If the sheep are to be housed, it is better for them to be sheared as I understand it, less pneumonia etc if they are. If they arent to be housed then show sheep or not, I dont agree with shearing them.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 29, 2012, 04:04:52 pm
If the sheep are to be housed, it is better for them to be sheared as I understand it, less pneumonia etc if they are. If they arent to be housed then show sheep or not, I dont agree with shearing them.
Very succinct and I think I have to agree with you, llm.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Blacksheep on November 29, 2012, 04:22:29 pm
re having fleece growth on the sheep when showing, it was more about judging the sheep classes, rather than specifically judging for fleece, although the fleece is taken into account when breed classes are being judged, a tight fleeced sheep being judged better than one with a more open soft fleece, so a different judging process to judging a fleece for spinning!

With more fleece on a sheep it is easier to shape them and they look bigger so harder to compete if you have a more recently shorn sheep in a class of sheep with plenty of sheep. One judge said that he could not place our ewe against properly show prepared and trimmed sheep, so a very clear message that she needed to be winter shorn to stand any chance, she is a good ewe that had done well showing the previous year.   
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: quiltycats on November 29, 2012, 04:24:08 pm
I clipped my show boys (Ryelands) in March, doing a small area at a time so that they gradually got used to it, regular showers tend to say clip in January but that is way too early for me to even contemplate on welfare grounds. When they did enter the show one well respected shower was surprised I'd clipped that late because their fleece was every bit as good, or long I guess, as any of the January clipped animals.

I'd rather buck the trend or not show at all than compromise their happiness and comfort.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fleecewife on November 29, 2012, 04:26:50 pm
How can you judge the fleece without the fleece on the sheep but if its later in the summer.......

Well, speaking as a spinner, I want the fleece judged off the sheep - there are things you can't know until you see the fleece on its own!

Ah well, but if you are judging the sheep as a producer of fleece (and as the potential parent of other producers of fleece) then you need to see the wool on the sheep so you can judge both  :sheep:
 
Two relevant fleece considerations for shearing out of season are
1) staple length
2) soundness - in this case if, because of the timing of shearing, you are getting the rise halfway up the staple which makes for a virtually unspinnable fleece.
 
For staple length, some longwool breeds would have a better handspinning fleece if they were shorn twice a year (unless you are spinning warp threads), whereas shorter wooled sheep would end up with a too short fleece to spin easily if shorn twice, and many sheep have a perfect length of fleece if shorn at the correct time.
 
One year I was horrified to find that a well-known Scottish Jacob breeder was burning all their fleeces.  I asked if I could take some to spin and was duly given many sacksful.  Unfortunately they all had to go on the bonfire as they were made up of short clippings; not a whole fleece to be found.  That is one of the reasons that if I buy fleece now I make sure to do so from someone who has grown the fleece specifically as a crop, not a by-product.  But I asked for it so can't blame them  :dunce:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: jaykay on November 29, 2012, 06:01:55 pm
So the problem, as ever, is the showing business. Wanting things that aren't natural.

I don't like sheep being sheared early and I very strongly object to sheep being kept indoors to avoid them bleaching in the sun.

The answer is for the b$#$ judges to downgrade something that's clearly been sheared too early or not kept in a field, then the practice would stop.

Sorry to be  :rant: but the practice is self-perpetuating idiocy!
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: quiltycats on November 29, 2012, 06:16:33 pm
Good judges, those who know their breed and know the tricks of the show ring very often see past all the faff of primping...no amount of cutting and combing will really disguise faults, a good animal is a good animal. You can enhance but that's all primping does really. 

My boys won 1st and 2nd in their class, against a lot of *proper showers*. Had there been no rise, they still wouldn't have been clipped when they were.

I can't see any point in housing sheep to avoid bleaching the tips tbh, after all, part of the primping process is trimming.....
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: shep53 on November 29, 2012, 06:52:36 pm
On a commercial basis ROMNEY'S and their crosses have been clipped as lambs in the autumn for ages . Some farms clip x ewe lambs in the autumn to give them a growth spurt , and some clip in lamb ewes at housing jan/feb , and some clip fattening hoggs at housing to keep them clean , in all these cases you can use a Snow comb to leave a thin covering of wool and the sheep responds to the cold by eating more food so improving in condition .    Most rams sold in the autumn have been clipped late winter to have enough wool to dress for sale ,some are autumn clipped as lambs.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: bigchicken on November 29, 2012, 08:27:06 pm
Jaykay I totally agree pretty sheep don't make them any better. Fleecewife I agree with you about Shetlands at the Highland. To my mind there is for most breeds a time for shearing and that is when the weather gets hot


r
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SteveHants on November 29, 2012, 09:54:25 pm
So the problem, as ever, is the showing business. Wanting things that aren't natural.

I don't like sheep being sheared early and I very strongly object to sheep being kept indoors to avoid them bleaching in the sun.

The answer is for the b$#$ judges to downgrade something that's clearly been sheared too early or not kept in a field, then the practice would stop.

Sorry to be  :rant: but the practice is self-perpetuating idiocy!


Lots of problems with stock are down to the show ring IMO.


Most producers of Romneys I know do shear twice, but believe me, the autumn shorn Roms have plenty of fleece back by now.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: colliewoman on November 29, 2012, 11:23:51 pm
I am of the opinion that the only time to shear a sheep is when it needs it :-\
If my girls suffer with a hot April, I shear then and provide shelter if the weather turns. If it stays chilly till June I do them then.


The only exception for me would be that I would shear a lamb if the fleece was worth saving right before it's one way trip and I wasn't keeping the skins.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SingingShearer on November 30, 2012, 08:34:51 am
Hi All,

Just thought I would pitch in and say that some sheep keepers shear in winter and put the sheep straight out and I have never seen them looking cold, also in the case of lambs it can help them to put weight on as they eat more to compensate for the fact that they haven't got the insulation of a full fleece.

The use of cover combs is more to keep the owner happy as much as anything, it only leaves a fraction more than a normal comb, the best way to leave a good covering would be to blade shear, in New Zealand they shear with blades in the mountains because no cover comb leaves enough wool on. 
Often shearing more than once a year is a good thing all round no mater when it is done as the fleece is often cleaner.

Philip :sheep:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: VSS on November 30, 2012, 10:01:54 pm
You can shear in the winter but need to house the sheep beforehand and for a week or so afterwards. They put down a layer of subcutaneous fat very quickly which keeps them warm. I am not suggesting that you should shear in sub zero conditions, but we regularly shear housed sale tups in mid February and then turn them out ten days or so later when we need the shed for lambing. Never had any problems, or seen the sheep looking miserable. They will also eat more.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Small Farmer on November 30, 2012, 11:46:23 pm
We lightly sheared the GFD ewes about six weeks ago because they get too much wool on them for our relatively mild climate.  If we don't their fleeces get horribly clagged up and seriously heavy.  The Llanwenogs don't have the same problem.  We find that after a couple of weeks there's a dense re-growth and by now there's plenty on top but a lot less underneath.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fleecewife on December 01, 2012, 10:53:56 am
Small Farmer I think you have hit the nail on the head when you mention your local climate.  What suits in one area - and with one breed - doesn't necessarily suit elsewhere or with another breed.  A sheep with a heavy fleece will not do well in a very wet winter climate as it can easily cowp because of the weight of the fleece (not sure of the word used elsewhere - when a sheep tips upside down and can't get back up).  It should be possible to time autumn shearing to allow for sufficient regrowth of the wool, plus laying down that extra fat in breeds which store their fat externally (not primitives which tend to store any fat internally) if that is necessary on welfare grounds in your area and with your breed.
 
People simply don't shear in the autumn round here (southern Scotland) unless their flock is to be housed, as they wouldn't last long outside in freezing lashing rain or sleet getting straight to their skin.   Shearing before housing could help to reduce the incidence of pneumonia etc, but we don't house ours so that's not a problem here.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on December 01, 2012, 11:24:04 am
I'm so glad I started this thread - I've learned loads.

The friend on the moorland farm has bought a few Wensleydales this year.  I did wonder how they are going to fare through a wet or snowy /icy winter up there...  I'll suggest to her that next year she gives them a trim in September maybe - I wonder if there'll be anyone local with some hand shears who would be willing to take a few inches off their locks for her...  :innocent: :eyelashes:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: kanisha on December 01, 2012, 11:33:51 am
, plus laying down that extra fat in breeds which store their fat externally (not primitives which tend to store any fat internally)

This a very good point and one which I am begining to notice  with my sheep. having had a problem with my skinny ewe this year I have concentrated my efforts on getting her to put on some weight. Things I have learnt it is possible to tell my sheeps condition ( fat or not )  by their faces! and that as they put on weight it tends to go to their bellies. Fleecewife do you have any references to this as i am quite interested to learn more.  sorry to hijack the thread.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: quiltycats on December 01, 2012, 02:15:43 pm
I'm so glad I started this thread - I've learned loads.

The friend on the moorland farm has bought a few Wensleydales this year.  I did wonder how they are going to fare through a wet or snowy /icy winter up there...  I'll suggest to her that next year she gives them a trim in September maybe - I wonder if there'll be anyone local with some hand shears who would be willing to take a few inches off their locks for her...  :innocent: :eyelashes:

I can vouch for Wensleydale getting its fair share of wet and snow and ice.  :raining:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on December 01, 2012, 02:25:12 pm
I'm so glad I started this thread - I've learned loads.

The friend on the moorland farm has bought a few Wensleydales this year.  I did wonder how they are going to fare through a wet or snowy /icy winter up there...  I'll suggest to her that next year she gives them a trim in September maybe - I wonder if there'll be anyone local with some hand shears who would be willing to take a few inches off their locks for her...  :innocent: :eyelashes:

I can vouch for Wensleydale getting its fair share of wet and snow and ice.  :raining:

 ;D  I bet.  But is it stoney/craggy underfoot, or is it bottomless peat bog?  The latter is where these ones have gone...    And do you know if they trim 'em up in the autumn in their homeland?
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: quiltycats on December 01, 2012, 04:27:37 pm
http://www.myfinepix.co.uk/sites/default/files/imagecache/full/gallery/274/the_buttertubs.003.jpg (http://www.myfinepix.co.uk/sites/default/files/imagecache/full/gallery/274/the_buttertubs.003.jpg)
stony, craggy and definitely bottomless pits... The Buttertubs. Swaledale /Wensleydale. The moors have their fair share of peaty swamp but TBH I think most breeders would be keeping theirs on lower bottom pastures. The ubiquitous Swaledale is the breed of choice for most farmers over here. With mules a close second and Mashams being popular.

I might have a potter over to The Wensleydale wool shop soon and have a chat with Anne Bolam. AFAIK no extra trimming beyond dagging.

What ever the rights and wrongs of showing sheep one thing shows do enable, are breeds that are less popular commercially, to survive. Ryelands, when I got my  first lot, were on the rare breeds list, and moved to minority status there after.
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fleecewife on December 02, 2012, 02:24:23 am
, plus laying down that extra fat in breeds which store their fat externally (not primitives which tend to store any fat internally)

This a very good point and one which I am begining to notice  with my sheep. having had a problem with my skinny ewe this year I have concentrated my efforts on getting her to put on some weight. Things I have learnt it is possible to tell my sheeps condition ( fat or not )  by their faces! and that as they put on weight it tends to go to their bellies. Fleecewife do you have any references to this as i am quite interested to learn more.  sorry to hijack the thread.

I hadn't really thought about looking at their faces, but you're right they are fuller faced when in good condition.
 
I don't think there's much written about it, apart from people's opinions and observations.  Primitives tend to stick at a condition score of about 3 but can continue to put on weight.  One of our first ever Shetlands did that and dropped down dead - our neighbour did a quick pm for us and found lots of fat deposited around the vital organs.  In our defense, she was in lamb so it was difficult to tell that she had got too fat, but we are much more careful now.
I suppose another way to tell is to be there at the abattoir and see what the innards are like - I'm too much of a woos to do that, so we just keep an eye on condition score and estimated weight (my OH picks them up  :D )
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on December 02, 2012, 09:12:50 am
Somebody (may have been you, FW!  :D) told me that a Swaledale can live for a fortnight on the fat in her tail - one reason they don't dock Swales  :thinking:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: kanisha on December 02, 2012, 09:19:29 am
thanks Fleecewife its good to know I am begining to "see" my sheep . SITN it wouldn't surprise me about living off fat in the tail, fat tailed sheep seem to have taken this to the extreme but i see this even sometimes with some breeds of dog that fat is deposited in different areas, intriguing.

No worries about picking them up tho' most go under one arm  ;D
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fleecewife on December 02, 2012, 12:18:05 pm
Somebody (may have been you, FW!  :D ) told me that a Swaledale can live for a fortnight on the fat in her tail - one reason they don't dock Swales  :thinking:

Wusnae me  :o  but very interesting  :wave:
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: Fronhaul on December 04, 2012, 03:52:41 am
This article on the subject appeared in the latest Gwlad to drop through our door:

http://gwladonline.org/famingconnect/121111haveyouconsideredwintershearing/?lang=en (http://gwladonline.org/famingconnect/121111haveyouconsideredwintershearing/?lang=en)
Title: Re: "Unseasonal" shearing / fleeces / spinning / welfare
Post by: SallyintNorth on December 04, 2012, 04:41:40 am
That's fascinating, Fronhaul - thanks for posting that.

It implies that the ewes are shorn just once a year, in December - so they'd be carrying quite a bit of wool come the summer.  It makes no mention of increased risk of flystrike in the summer however. 

I wonder how the ewe's natural cycle of wool growth, rise and shedding is affected?  I assume that, with only shearing once a year, the fleece is ready to be clipped come December...   :thinking: