Sunday 27 September 2009

Back to the grind

After the 'holiday' in Scotland Shep and the better half had some catching up to do.

August, September and October sees the season for sheep sales which for Shep means a lot of sheep to gather, dress and draw.

Now I can't bring myself to leave you to work out what that means, it is tempting though..........

Gathering ought to be self explanatory by now, if not go back in these blogs and work it out.

Dressing? A thing we do every morning when we get up - slightly different with sheep, they are not wrapped up in fine trimmings, frocks for the females and suits for the males - I think not! No, dressing sheep is similar to taking the poodle to the parlour or getting your hair cut. Basically they get titivated up to look their best before going into the auction ring to be sold.

Generally only breeding sheep get 'dressed' although it has been known for the real pinickity to square tails up on store lambs to make them look boxier at the back end, mebbes I'll go into that at a later date. Breeding sheep are titivated up, hand shears are a must although the electric shears are also used. Care has to be taken, snipping off a little at a time as once it's off it can't be put back on. There is a saying that a good sheep doesn't need to be dressed and there is a lot of truth in this, however, you just can't help but try to make a good sheep look even better.

There are all sorts of tricks to the trade all intended to make the sheep look bigger, stronger, brighter and all together more pleasing to the eye. Many are bloom dipped, that's why you often see sheep with yellow wool, or brown, golden, biscuit, black - whatever the farmers personal preference in bloom may be. Sheep that thrive well often have a natural bloom about them, similar to the colour of those that have been in a sandy rubbing. Bloom dipping just exaggerates this natural colour.

Drawing? not a pencil and paper in sight, unless to write down the numbers on the back of a fag packet or whatever comes to hand.

No. Drawing means sorting the sheep so that they stand together as a type. You want a similar size and quality of sheep to be sold in each pen that you put forward for sale. It is often said that the buyers bid to the worst lamb in the pen, so you really don't want them to be badly drawn, ideally you'd like the pen to be all like peas in a pod, unfortunately the ideal world hasn't been made yet and every sheep will have it's imperfections. Basically size and type get drawn together, stand back and look and anything you find that isn't pleasing to the eye gets dropped down into the next pen and so on until you are content with what you have - simple!

And so, Shep has been busy. Dressing Mule Ewe Lambs, Mule Gimmers, Blackfaced Ewe Lambs, Gimmers and Draft Ewes, drawing store lambs and breeding sheep, gathering and I may add still spaening some sheep. The back end of the year is the harvest time for the sheep farmer and a hectic time for the Contract Shepherd as deadlines must be met. The sheep sales wait for no one.