20th November 2019
Today the haulier collected the fleeces which were sheared from the sheep during June and July.
We shear the sheep to keep them cool and fly or maggot free in the summer months. During these months it is when the fleece has a good *rise making the condition right to slide the shears between the fleece and the sheep to take it off.
*rise means for the fleece to naturally lift away from the skin of the sheep.
The weather is hopefully drier in June and July and lambing is then completely over.
We sent 26 *sheets this year that’s our usual number give or take one.
*sheet is the name given to the bags containing the fleeces.
Each bag contains on average around 50 fleeces.
The sheets are recorded with their serial number and a tag is attached with our name address and producer number on.
The wool we send is the product of hours and hours of work. Gathering the sheep, setting up, shearing, marking, wrapping the fleeces, bagging it, sometimes drying it if it’s been a touch wet, packing it down and sewing up the bags. Then finally the labelling and loading up.
We keep 1000 lambing ewes plus 300 replacements plus about 20 tups.
1320 / 26 = 50
The fleeces are graded according to quality and we are paid whatever the market price is at that time.
Fleeces are down graded if they are dirty or marked with smit or spray, or if they have foliage trapped in them – twigs, leaves, brambles etc. The quality / breed is graded – finer fleeces are worth more to spinners. But fell fleece *staples are short, looser and rough so are worth next to nothing. Half of our flock are Swaledales. But a Blue Faced Leicester fleece is long, soft and tightly pearled; therefore worth a lot more. The other half of our flock are mules so are worth a bit more because they have a longer, tighter less flossy fleece.
*staple is a term referring to naturally formed clusters or locks of wool fibres throughout a fleece that are held together by cross fibres. The staple length of wool is one of the determining factors when spinning yarn
Last year’s wool cheque was £1111.60 minus carriage at £145.80 makes the payment £965.80 which included four sheep breeds – Mule (Swaledale X Blue Faced Leicester fleece) Swaledale and a small number of Blue Faced Leicesters and Texels.
That works out at an average of £0.73 a fleece, less than what it costs us to pay someone to shear them.
We pay a contractor to clip the half bred sheep (mules) but we still have to gather them, help send them up and mark them all up afterwards. It doesn’t mean a day off.
My eldest son shears now too and is keen to improve his skill every year.
We shear a few smaller batches of mules ourselves and do all the Swaledales ourselves to keep the cost down.
The shearing bill was £825.24 last year making our profit from wool £140.46 not including any other costs to replace equipment and electricity to run the shears.
So when animal rights people complain about the act of shearing sheep the one, and only reason why we spend so much time, energy and our own money on shearing them, is for their welfare.
To keep the sheep healthy and comfortable.
The tag/labels are made out the night before, then they are tied on each sheet with the loose line of cord left over from stitching the bags up and finally tucked inside for safety. I record each bag serial number and go over it with a permanent marker if it is faded or unclear, the number is recorded on a printed paper with a letter M or S next to it meaning Mule or Swaledale for sorting.
The barn in now empty signalling the cycle is ready again for it to be used for pet lambs and the adopters next year in March.
You may find the photograph interesting as it shows the fleeces and their grading inc the overall price.