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Ram libido and the best time to shear

Once again, March and April have been a difficult period of chasing rams around the neighbourhood, then locking them up and having to hand feed them.

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We have typically aimed to start lambing in October, after the worst of the winter is over, but out sheep tend to have other ideas. They seem to want to have their lambs in August / September, which means we spend all of March and April trying to keep the ewes and rams apart. The main reason we like lambing to be late is because we tend to shear in September, and it’s very hard on the sheep, and on us, if they are lambing during shearing time. We are persevering with the current arrangements for this year, but we are planning a change for next year.

Ewes struggle to lamb in full wool, so we like to shear before lambing, and the cold winters we get here mean we can’t bring shearing forward to July, so we have to rethink the whole system a bit.

We’ve been watching the Dorper sheep in the district who naturally shed their wool each year. Counter intuitively, they drop their wool at the end of summer each year, usually late February. That suggests to us that, from the sheep’s point of view, this is the best time to be shearing. There’s little chance of cold weather at that time of year (sheep take a couple of weeks to get back their protection from the cold) and it’s also when the grass seeds are around, so we hope to see less trouble from seeds working their way into the skin. It also means the ewes would have about 5 months wool on them when they are lambing, which should cause no problems.

We’re going to try this out next year and see how it goes; we’re hopeful that by allowing the sheep to choose both their breeding time and their shearing time, we may get a better result for everyone.

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