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A Snip In Time

1st of July 2010

Early June and a few hot days and the ewes are panting. Time to get their coats off! Because I have only two to shear, and I do not have a handy power supply, they get done standing up with a pair of scissors. It is a shame I do not sell the wool which has so little value but it has to come off to cool the ewes and keep the flies away. Blow flies like nothing more than a nice woolly sheep with a few mucky bits around the back end. They lay their eggs in the wool which develop into maggots which then eat the live sheep! If left unchecked they will kill the sheep. They grow at an amazing rate and give off a smell that attracts more flies. Not spotting them on the first day can result in a dreadfully damaged sheep. Quite the nastiest thing I have ever come across!
So it’s out with the scissors and off with the wool leaving no hiding place for the flies or their maggots. Both Katy and Sally were bred by me and have only ever been sheared tied to a fence, standing up. While I snip away the others all gather round; one lamb nibbling my trousers; Sally waiting her turn and resting her head on my shoulder watching closely to see how it is done. They had made a lot of wool in the cold winter but it had risen well with a clear wool line where last year’s wool ends and this year’s begins.
Mine are Shetland sheep and traditionally the old Shetlanders would have ‘reamed’ off the wool by sort of combing it with their fingers. My ram, Luke, always starts to lose fleece quite early and I just sort of pick away at it with my hands and pull it off. He is usually ‘done’ over three days or so and I never bother to tie him up. He loves it and stretches and sighs…. then decides that is enough for the day and walks off. I have tried it with the ewes but it has never worked but this year I was able to do a 50/50 job, a bit of snipping and a bit of reaming and I have ended up with a neat job. Poor little Lucy was very upset by her mum’s new hair-do; I don’t think she recognised her and bleated all afternoon.
It was a snip in time. As I gathered up the heap of wool, the blow flies were landing on it. Not a moment too soon!

Wendy Bathurst

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