imageThough I primarily raise Katahdin hair sheep, you may recall I own one Jacob ewe. This sheep was kind of a charity case I took on in the winter of 2008, along with three other ewes, from a good friend whose life circumstances had taken a radical shift that caused her to need to simplify and offload some sheep. Unfortunately three of the ewes were killed in a single night by coyotes, so this sole wool sheep remains in my flock! And she needed shearing this week.

The Horned Devil

She is a quality purebred Jacob, so I’m grateful for the gift. But, she came underweight and pregnant last year and her twin lambs did not survive. I don’t prefer this sheep as compared to the Katahdins. She is willful, more “dingy” and flighty in temperament than the Katahdins. She knows she’s got horns and she uses them on everybody, including me! When the sheep are eating grain, she knocks the Katahdins in the head to hog more than her share. She often spars with the other sheep, including the rams.

And I hate having to tip her over to trim her hooves, as those horns end up right in my abdomen, and then in my face; and I worry some day she’s going to get me good! And, at least last year with her first set of lambs, I was not pleased with her mothering ability; she tended to leave her lambs behind and ignore their calling, and only concern herself with bellying up to the food bar! Here’s hoping that was just because she was hungry last year, and that she’ll do better this time around.

And, there is just something weird about this sheep, she looks like a sheep you’d choose if you were casting for a devil movie. She is not very charming to say the least. So, with all due respect to Jacob fans everywhere, based on my experience with this one example, I’m not impressed. I’ll take my stead-Eddy, good mothering, no-horn, no-shear Katahdins any day! 😀

Shorn Devil

imageBut nevertheless, here she lives, and she does have beautiful wool. And, a nice long-bodied carcass which I hope she’ll pass onto her future half-Katahdin lambs. Lambing is two weeks away, so today I sheared her in preparation for that. Last year, I didn’t know when she was due to lamb (it turned out to be early) and we had a lot of bad weather, so I ended up not shearing her until later in the spring, after she lambed. That was regrettable, since her lambs were born unthrifty to begin with, and I think her two-year wool growth wasn’t helpful to them in finding her teeny tiny teats (ok, so that’s another thing I don’t like about her! Micro-teats!)

I scored the quaint homemade sheep stand in the picture from craigslist: twenty bucks, plus a few more dollars spent repairing a leg and buying a new head chain. I was pleased with the acquisition, because fancier sheep stands are several hundred dollars, and I couldn’t justify that for using it only every now and then. It worked great for shearing, though the sides were probably designed for tall “show” sheep, and she kept sliding underneath them. I’ll have to adjust them in the future for my shorter-statured animals. This time I used my knee to keep her on the stand. She was reasonably well behaved during the ordeal, but she kept squatting with every cut, she didn’t like it. And I nicked her a few times, so I don’t blame her for squirming. image

I used hand shears, because again I can’t justify spending a lot on electric shears (or hiring a shearer) for one wool sheep. I’m no shearing pro, but I did my best to avoid “second cuts,” keep it clean, and capture as much length as possible (I find it’s hard to cut close to the skin with hand shears). I did one pass and bagged the nice wool, then did a second pass to tidy her up and especially clean up around her bag and rear end, to make lambing go better this time. It took me an hour to do the first pass, and then maybe 45 minutes for the cleanup round. It wasn’t bad, and my hand doesn’t even hurt or have blisters!

First Wool “Crop”

Her wool is indeed very pretty, at least to  my untrained eye. Good crimp, nice texture and reasonable length. I love how black it looks underneath, when the exterior is all brown from sun and weather. So clean…. I only found a little bit of hay around her neck, but the rest was debris-free!

image Last year her wool was full of blackberry vines and thorns, embedded way deep in the wool. That made shearing her miserable, I got poked a lot, and it was hard on the shears constantly running into sticks and debris. I ended up tossing the wool out, it was filthy, and I just didn’t think anyone would want to try to work with it and get stabbed by blackberry thorns. This year it looks nice, I was pleased with how clean it looked. So I think I’ll try to sell it, once I figure out what  an amateur-cut fleece is worth! 🙂

imageWhen she returned to the flock, all the sheep (and llama) had to check her out thoroughly. I’ve read that sheep have a strong ability to recognize hundreds of other sheep by appearance. They definitely seemed interested in inspecting her after she changed her hairdo! In the picture below, you can barely see her black head and horns, in the middle of the curious herd all shamelessly snooping to see what happened to her!