This posting has nothing to do with blooming sheep. Actually, most of the postings have something to do with 'blooming' sheep! What I mean is the title - Pink Wool - has nothing to do with the blooming or colouring of fleeces which occurs for shows and sales, although it has been known for things to go wrong when colouring sheep for sale and I'm sure pink sheep may well have inadvertently come out at the other end of the process. I recall once seeing some mule ewe lambs which had ended up some putrid pea green colour - different!
For quite a number of years now I have noticed sheep with a pink cast to their wool, these observations are generally made at clipping time, when I suppose the wool is at the front of your mind and in my case right under my nose all day.
So, for quite a number of years I have been querying this throughout the Tarset valley, most of the flocks I deal with throughout the year and so am aware of any treatments the farmers use. Some plunge dip whilst others don't, some use a pour on and others don't. There just never seemed to be a common denominator as to one management practice which involved the sheeps clothing which could be linked to every farm and result in pink wool.
My imagination began to run riot, could it be the rain? Acid rain? some peculiar pink fall out from the sky? That's it! a fallout from the sky - Mars is exfoliating and dropping dust on our sheep !!
As I have muttered on over the years it has got the farmers themselves thinking, a mineral deficiency seemed the most probable explanation, as mineral deficiences can affect some sheep more than others, depending on their metabolism and ability to maximise the minerals they ingest, that could explain why some sheep have a pink tinge when others don't. Although not rule of thumb a sheep with a pink tinge on the wool may also have been a lame sheep or something less thriven than others, however many perfectly healthy sheep would also show the pinkish hue on their fleeces so again this seemed to rule out that particular train of thought.
I have to say that for the past couple of years I had almost forgotten about my quest to ascertain where pink wool came from. Until this year, when it came to the fore once again. There was much crack (conversation) at the time regarding pink wool, some thought there seemed to be more sheep affected than on other years, that the colour saturation was probably even denser - more noticeable.
I was away clipping over the border and couldn't help but ask a retired shepherd, a gent in his 80's and hugely knowledgeable about sheep whether or not he knew the cause of pink wool. He had to admit he had never given it any thought and really couldn't think what the answer may be, but before I could feel deflated I heard the answer from behind me "It's the grasses"
The shepherd on the farm, who admittedly isn't as old as the gentleman I had asked but who is close to retiring and again highly knowledgeable about all matters sheep had come up with a possible explanation. Before long I was presented with a bouquet, not quite the sort you'd have in mind but a bouquet consisting of a variety of grasses.
Do you know? Years of wondering, questioning, perusing, concluding had never drawn me to this fairly obvious answer. I don't know that it is correct but it is the most logical explanation that I have come upon yet.
This year the grass has grown like it's never grown before (probably a slight exaggeration there), we have had one of the grassiest years I can recollect for a long time. The grasses grow tall and carry their seed heads through the early summer months, once the clipping season is over there are very few coloured grass heads to be found, most of them having dried out ready to seed and the colour has been lost, which might explain why the colouration on the sheep is more obvious when they are in full fleece.
I don't know, I'm not a scientist. I do however have a lot of time and respect for those who have been in the trade for a long time, men who have grown up amongst sheep, worked and lived with them for a lifetime know far more than many of the rest of us. Until someone can prove otherwise I am going with this explanation I received this summer. Pink wool is caused by grass pollen.
Maybe someone out there has another take on the idea, feel free to leave a comment as none of us are too old to learn.
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