Monday, 24 September 2012

Shearless Sheep

It is now well into Spring here in Tasmania, although that doesn’t mean much. Seasons in Tasmania are all wet and mostly cold.

Nevertheless, the Wiltipol sheep are shedding their wool. This is one of the fantastic thing about the breed, being a wool shedding sheep, they don’t need to be sheared. The same can’t be said about our whether, Gary … he is getting a little wool-blind and needs the careful attention of the shearer.


The girl’s wool is coming off in clumps where they rub themselves on various things: fences, garden stakes, each other … whatever they can find.

I have called the shearer, he lives down in the south of the state and he shears sheep all around where we live. He does, mostly, small flocks and charges very reasonable rates. I only have one sheep to shear, but the shearer will also trim the hooves and drench all three of our sheep. He promises to give me a couple of lessons on handling the sheep so that I can better manage Gary’s wool blindness.

Wool blindness can lead to actual blindness from the wool rubbing the sheep’s eyes. Also, it makes the sheep more skittish because they have to rely on their hearing more than their vision. All it takes is a quick trim of the wool from his forehead and under his eyes to improve his lot, so I will certainly be taking a keen interest in making sure that I can do this every six months or so (or whenever it starts getting bad, actually).


Here’s the theory, the shearer tells me that if you grab the hair on their chin and raise their head, their natural reaction is to walk backwards. With your other hand under their jaw (thumb behind the base of their ear), you lift their head and guide them back into your legs. This will make the sheep back-up and drop their butt (once they work out that you are stronger than they are). Then roll the sheep onto it’s butt and lean it back onto your legs. The shearer also tells me that there are three things that the sheep may do …

  1. Jump forward;
  2. Drop their head and try to rush off; or
  3. Relax.

The idea is to hold them firmly so that they get the idea that they are unable to escape and they calm down. Anyway, I will have a better idea when I get to play with the sheep and the shearer.

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