My pride was squished this past weekend when we attempted to shear our mature ewes. My past shearing experience was only on show lambs for the fair and I learned pretty quickly that mature ewes with a full fleece of wool aren’t the same, especially if she has lambs calling her name. We did our pre-shearing homework like good students of our new hobby. We watched some pretty helpful sheep shearing ‘How To’ videos from the University of Kentucky and Penn State University before we revved up the clippers.
Golly, what went wrong!? Ok– a few things.
#1: Our mature ewes have some pounds on us. We chose Cheviots because they are smaller framed sheep and since we’re on the small side ourselves we thought that would help a little. But… that doesn’t really matter because the spread between our mature weight and their mature weight just isn’t close enough. The combination of their increase in body weight compared to ours and their relentless struggle to free themselves from our well meaning grip had magnifying effect of at least 100 times. I’m not kidding! Add on a few cries from a safe but lonely lamb and that mother ewe just becomes this mammoth of a beast. I’m fairly embarrassed to admit this because when you see the size of the shorn ewes, you’ll giggle at how small they really are.
#2: We were shearing too slow and the lanolin gunked up the blade and comb on the shears and made the job go even slower. The shears are basically brand new so we can’t blame much on them…but under normal shearing circumstance the head of the shears wouldn’t have time to cool down enough to let the lanolin cake up in the teeth of the comb.
#3: We’re inexperienced! If we had a little more experience under our belts we could have graduated to a wide toothed comb on the shears but given our lack of experience, we chose a very fine one to avoid cutting the ewes. It would have gone faster with a more appropriate comb for the job but we just aren’t there yet. To prove how inexperienced we are, we still managed to cut the poor ewes with the finest tooth come available. (Ashamed!)
#4: I had unrealistic expectations going into the gig. The YouTube video instructors from U.K and PSU were so slick and savvy and everything they were showing looked easy enough. In theory, it all made sense. In reality, it was a joke. We had barely finished ewe #1 and I was ready to call it a day. A hoof clipped me hard on the cheek and the ewe was looking sadder and sadder with each swipe of the shears. A quick ‘pull it together’ look from the hubs brought me back to reality and I re-adjusted my expectations…basically ditched all expectations. The only goal was to finish the job, and sure enough, we did.
You can tell how patchy their clip-job really was. Good thing they don’t have hot dates anytime soon.