Distraction and carelessness are two states of mind that should be avoided if you are to be successful shearing your own animals, their safety and your own depend upon staying focused and aware of one another. You can be sure that your ewe or ram will be alert to any opportunity and therefore so should you be aware of your hold, position and how you move around the animal, – this is especially important the first few minutes of shearing when the animal is most scared and spooked by the noise of the clipper. While a great deal depends upon how your farm or ranch is set up, the means you employ in selecting and catching the animal and your relationship to the specific animal you are dealing with, there are some things that do not vary or change very much. One of these is the necessity of being deliberate in your movements and conscious of the animal’s mood and position as you change holds and move around with the clipper.
For the most part the animal will be especially agitated at first, even if you have the animals trust (such as it is) and she is experienced in being sheared by you, there will still be instances where a careless lapse could cause the animal to panic or break free. Even when you are doing everything right, the right hold, the right position, the animal could sense a change in your grip, or movements, and try to break free. This is normally nothing to worry about, if you have her in the proper position and a good grip or your feet placed correctly, we have never had one get away, however such movements can cause serious injury to the animal or to your person when in critical positions. In my experience, the most dangerous time is in the beginning, they are more agitated and prone to try and break free. After a time they settle into a resigned state, once they realize you are only shearing them and they cannot get away… Generally, we start working down the neck and chest, followed by the belly and then up the sides, this works for us because our number one goal is to prevent injury and this gives the animal time to adjust to this resigned state. We have found the most dangerous areas are at the shoulder and hip joints; we are always on high alert when we get to these areas because this is the only areas where real or lasting damage is possible.
With summer just around the corner, we have been inundated with orders for manure, with just a month into our busy season we have exhausted a significant amount of our processed inventory accumulated over the winter. Currently we are working through the bulk manure we have only roughly sorted and are focusing on collection and drying new inventory.
While working through this process the mind wanders and it occurred to me to that we should do a blog post on how customers can properly store manure to last beyond immediate use, for this is not always as obvious as it seems… the process of collection and sorting is always changing, over the last decade we have changed how we collect, sort and process manure many times, primarily trying to find the finished product that would offer the most appeal with the least work. Perhaps the most problematic step in the process is the drying and storing, we are blessed with ideal weather and climate for this process, perhaps no better place in the United States exists. We have extremely low humidity, vast amounts of sun, and short rainy seasons. These factors make this type of product practical here, for someone in a more humid environment the drying and storage would be far more problematic.
Manure sales are a critical aspect of our year round income, while wool sells during winter with some consistency; it is at most a supplemental source of income. The other large source of income is selling rams and lambs, while this is often our largest sales for the year; they are generally one off events and nothing that can be relied upon. Typically lamb sales are once or twice a year, unless a stray buyer or trade comes along.
It is manure sales that offer a relatively consistent sales record; typically it sells year round, though perhaps more during the easing of winter and through the spring. For this reason it is something we spend a great deal of time modifying our methods and product line. Recently we introduced the selling of manure directly through this website, this is primarily because the on-line retail sites are expensive (fees), arrogant and arbitrary in dealing with sellers. Their policies and fees directly increase the costs we must charge, which hampers sales (higher price point), it also increases our expenses which harm our animals. Typically when we have good sales of wool and manure, or sell off lambs, the surplus is largely used to purchase more and better feed, improve structures, and provide the ewes with special treats, like carrots and grains.
Just as the death of a cherished ewe causes sorrow, the birth of new lambs are the bright spot of the year. Generally, for the breed of sheep we raise, this occurs primarily in February and March, which is generally when the weather starts to improve. This lambing season has begun well for us, so far three ewe lambs and only one ram lamb. More importantly, the mother ewes have been among our strongest and youngest animals, which give the lambs the best shot of a problem free “lambhood”. This is also of tremendous value for the shepherd as it relieves the necessity of close monitoring and hand feeding, which often accompanies the birth of a lamb to an older ewe.