Wednesday, 28 July 2010
If left to run wild sheep would naturally shed their wool. They would get lean in the winter or towards lambing time when food was scarcer and lambs drained their mothers bodies. When the spring flush of grass arrived they would get what we call the turn, in other words they would begin to pick up, their physical condition would improve.
Prior to the sheep getting the turn their wool would begin to come loose and quite literally fall off. Once they get the turn the new wool would begin to grow.
They do look comical with their bits of fleeces, some seem to wear scarves whilst others carry a saddle, odd ones just have a tuft here and there. Should they be field ewes they can make the ground look awfully untidy when they start shedding their wool as it invariably comes off in bits not a whole fleece as a shearer would take it off and so the fields get lots of bits of wool all over them. The sheep also get itchy as temperatures rise with the result that fences can end up covered in wool which has stuck to the wires as sheep have rubbed against them.
Professional shearers would remove all the new wool as well as the old wool, leaving the sheep bare. Farmers and shepherds will often just remove the old wool which leaves the sheep with an uneven look with 'bald' bits in amongst the new wool. If you clip off the new wool it does not hold together like a fleece would, it just becomes a pile of loose fibres which are no longer required by the wool board and are a nuisance to dispose of so it is easier to leave it on the sheep's back. Interestingly enough the wool all ends up the same length eventually, the sheep does not go through the winter with 'bald' patches.
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