We have just completed shearing and we and the sheep are feeling a lot better for it! At one point our farm manager reported back, “It feels like there are sheep everywhere.” And shearing time really is a bit like that.
The sheep have to be gathered in and nearly four hundred sheep are quite a handful! Then each ewe has to be brought in individually and shorn. Modern equipment makes this easier but shearing is still a hot, sticky and laborious business. Occasionally a sheep decides it doesn’t want to comply or wants to make its escape, kicking and jumping. This is why shearing is better done by two people working together.
In times gone by the wool was immensely valuable as the principal material for making clothing and other fabrics. That is why so many towns in East Anglia or the Cotswolds are said to have their prosperity founded on the wool trade. And there are beautiful old wool markets preserved in some of these towns.
Our own town of BIdeford has an old long bridge whose pillars are said by legend to have been rested on bales of wool. While that is probably not literally true it may we’ll be that wealthy local farmers and wool dealers subscribed to the building of the bridge to facilitate their trading.
Now cheap synthetic fibres and cotton have replaced wool for much of our clothing and other fabrics and cheap imports from Australia and New Zealand serve to hold down prices. This means that the wool barely pays for the cost of the shearing.
But we still shear our sheep each year for their comfort and well-being as the wool could provide a breeding ground for pests and parasites. So its short back and sides for all……