Sheep-shearing


#1

“'Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time.” (1 Samuel 25:7)

So, what time of the year was that? Any one know? :hmmm:


#2

Most sheep farmers shear their flocks at Autumn, or your American Fall, as the fleece is thicker after winter and of better quality.
However Biblical sheepshearing was more an occasion of feasting and score settling especially of debts rather than a specific time of year.


#3

It’s not the time of year, it is the time of day. The best time is in the afternoon after the sheep have fed and are feeling lazy. Rounded tummies are easier to work with than rib cages, and there isn’t as much struggle.


#4

In our American Southwest sheep shearing “campaigns” started before Summer and some owners would try and get their flocks sheared several times a year through the Summer and into the Fall barely giving the animals time to grow a minimal protective layer by the end of the year. Others would wait a reasonable time after the last hard frost and before the expected first hard frost. Either way Summertime was the time to make hay…err fleece! Perhaps in the holy land it was more a matter of custom than an industry?


#5

Sheep-shearing is traditionally done in the spring but may be done several times a year. I have to run to a Confirmation this morning but when I’m back I’ll explain why.

Also, afternoon right after shearing is the WORST time to shear, and in fact these days sheep are fasted overnight before shearing. I’ll, again, explain why when I’m back. Just wanted to subscribe to this thread so I can find it later!


#6

That is not in the best interests of the sheep and its only so the shearers can get through more before nightfall. The sheep are hungry, probably haven’t slept because they expect to be fed, out of routine and probably scared by the transport and the early start. Sheep should be sheared when the sun is in the west, even if you have to go into the night. Hence, “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning shepherd’s warning…” Shepherds are supposed to put their flock first and be at one with them as if a member of the herd, just like their title suggests.


#7

I believe the saying is “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. . .”


#8

Shepherd’s delight.


#9

Or Angel Delight?


#10

Im beginning to think before Summer so the animals had time to get a bit of their coat back on before winter. Just my guess.


#11

I’m a shepherd, a sheepshearer, and a student of sheep husbandry and science. How experienced are you in this process?

So, sheep are mostly shorn in the spring. This is the natural time for sheep to roo their fleece. Rooing is the shedding process for the more primitive breeds of sheep. Long ago when sheep were first domesticated, they were hair sheep, and had no need of shearing, but were eventually selected by the hand of man to produce a spinnable fleece. These primitive wool-bearers were not too different, or were identical to the Scottish Soay, Icelandic, or similar breeds. These sheep have dual-coated fleeces of long coarse outer hair and very fine down. These fleeces would naturally shed in the springtime, but further selection allowed the development of breeds which more or less do not shed their fleeces, and these do have to be sheared.

These modern-day breeds are usually shorn in the spring for several reasons. First, they need their wool over the winter to keep warm. Once spring rolls around, it’s no longer necessary. Also, when ewes give birth, it is valuable to have them shorn to make the process cleaner, make it simpler to see the signs of impending labor, and also because in late pregnancy and lactation, she is under high nutritional demands and the wool fibers will break all in the same spot across the wool fleece. This is natural, but if you can shear right around that time, it preserves the fleece quality for spinning purposes.

Sheep are sometimes also shorn in the winter if shelter and extra feed is provided, usually if lambing is to occur. This is important, because while the ewes are comfortable in the barn, they do not usually go outside when shorn, so she will deliver her lambs in a warmer place and rear them during their earlier days there. Additionally, a ewe with a very full fleece cannot feel if she is lying down on her lambs, so there’s added protection for the lambs.

Sheep may be shorn in the fall if they grow very long fleeces to preserve wool quality. It’s not very common in most cases.

As for the time of day, and the fasting: Do you understand the mechanisms of a ruminant animal? If they are down too long with a full stomach, not only are they very uncomfortable, but they are at risk for dangerous bloat. They are very anxious when full and fight mightily. Also, you’re going to be shearing over ribs whether the belly is rounded (full and bloated) or not, just like bloated people will still have just as much ribcage available. Sure, they’re hungry for a little while. They get to eat right afterwards. Believe me, they do sleep despite it all. I can’t see anything wrong with trying to be quick with the shearing process either. A good shearer can take a fleece off cleanly and well in several minutes or less. It’s a beautiful process and minimizes any stress to the animal.

“Red sky in the morning” is referring to the weather. It has nothing to do per se with shearing although no one wants to shear wet sheep. I have heard both the shepherd’s and sailor’s versions of that rhyme.

There are some differences between shearing back in those days and shearing today. Back then, sheep were washed before shearing and were tied down and sheared by hand with hand blades. Today, the washing and tying don’t happen, and they are usually shorn with machine blades, although I still shear by hand as well. Shearing is much more efficient today, whether with machine blades or hand blades.


#12

SweetLambs. thank you for such a thorough and knowledgeable explanation of the shearing process.


#13

Yes, thank you Sweetlambs. :slight_smile:


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.