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Weekly Check in May 16: Shearing Time

Happy Wednesday Friends!

We brought home yet another sheep this weekend!

Meet Orion. Orion is our f1 Valais x Scottish Blackface cross. We bought him from a breeder in Michigan. He spent the last week traveling and we now have him in quarantine for the week with occasional pasture time. Typically when new animals arrive, they do not want to interact with humans much and need left alone so they can calm down. It is important however to do frequent health checks especially in the first 24 hours. The stress of traveling can bring on all sorts of disease.

Orion is part of a breeding program to produce a 100 percent valais. Breeders breed up with an ewe until they produce a purebred valais. Valais are extremely docile and friendly sheep native to Switzerland. Switzerland does not allow the exportation of this rare endangered sheep. However, farms in Europe sell valais semen at high costs to farmers in the states . A purebred valais can sell at 20,000 dollars.

I expect that Orion's fleece will have a staple length of at least 12 inches when he is fully grown. Really excited to find out. His fleece is coarse and very much unlike an alpaca. Scottish blackface are known for their coarse fiber that is great for tweeds and rugs. My plan with Orion is to use his fiber for practical houseware textiles. This is an Avenue I have yet to wander down and I am excited to learn.

Babydoll sheep are part of the down family and their fleece is on average, 22-40 micron which is a huge range. Most sheep have clothing worthy wool, however. As a rule, the young the sheep, the finer their blankets are.

None of our sheep are ready to be sheared this spring so everything will be enjoyed and learned next year. Until then, I can just enjoy their company. Sheep are so sweet and love the attention which is very different than alpaca.

Our shearing date is set for Monday! Our seven alpaca will be sheared and separated into usibilty. They also have standard health checks, teeth grinding, nails done and monthly shots at this time. Needless to say, this is the alpaca's least favorite day of the year. But they are so relieved when it is over.

Shearing alpaca is essential for their health and well-being. Without shearing, alpaca will die. They overheat very easily and their thick fleeces are too much even in 70 degree weather. Right now, they are hanging next to all of the fans and staying in the shade. I know they secretly cannot wait.

In the wild, sheep used to shed their woods naturally. As they were domesticated, they evolved and were bred to not shed but require shearing from human intervention. There are some rare breeds that still exist that naturally shed but most in captivity require shearing for their health and well-being.

Have any questions about shearing or fiber animal health? Feel free to comment below!

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