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Shearing cross bred lambs

Shorn and unshorn lambs

Shorn and unshorn lambs

We’ve been debating with the experts for years, the question of when to shear cross bred lambs. The general consensus is that it’s best to shear them at 6 months of age, when the rest of the flock is crutched (crutching is shearing only around the bum and back legs and the face). We have been given more reasons for early shearing than we can remember; from “it’s just what you do”, to “it makes them eat more” or, counter intuitively, “they put less energy into growing wool, so there’s more energy for growing.” None of these explanations have been particularly satisfying to us, so this year we are hoping to resolve the question once and for all.

When we first started growing lambs we used to shear our cross bred lambs at around 6 months of age, in March, when we crutch the main flock. One year crutching was late and, worrying about the cold weather coming, we decided not to shear them until the normal shearing time in September. As we didn’t notice any particular difference in the weights and quality of the lambs, we have continued the practise until now.

Being scientists, this year we’ve decided to try and quantify the difference, in an attempt to understand why we are constantly told we should be shearing. So we’ve shorn exactly half the cross bred lambs and just crutched the other half. When it comes time to start selling them, from September / October onwards, we’ll compare carcase weights, fat score and meat quality to see if shearing early makes any real difference.

Stay tuned towards the end of the year for the publication of our results.

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