At long last I have finished shearing after one of the wettest Summers I can remember for a long time.
At this time of the year the wool tends to be a bit matted and also there is a natural break which happens in the wool.
You can make use of this natural weakening and tease the wool off the sheep. This is mainly found in primitive breeds, although one breed that ‘self-shears’ well is the Wiltshire Horn. This breed will shed its whole fleece from March though to July by rubbing the fences and trees for example. The birds love it in the Spring but I have not found a lot in any bird nest I have looked at recently!
With shearing over we are now into the next quarter and it is the easiest one for the shepherd as we have time to look and plan ahead. We can enjoy the lambs growing and make sure they are ready for sales in a month or two. Our main job is keeping the lambs clean and free from any disease but also plan which ones we might be keeping.
Most of us set New Year resolutions in January then often not look at them again – till next January! I tend to set one big annual goal in July for the flock and break it down into quarters. Activities such as tupping (when the ram is introduced to the ewes), lambing, shearing and the sales create four milestones for me to check and see if I am on track.
It is great to have focus but checking in can be painful and time-consuming. We normally over-estimate what we can do in the short term but under-estimate what we can do in the long term.
To avoid the highs and the lows quite so much I set three goals for each season:
1) A ‘pride’ achievement (any shepherd would achieve).
2) A ‘medium’ goal which should be achievable in a good year
3) An ‘outrageous’ goal where I would celebrate big time!
Sometimes I don’t check in as I know I am not on the top target. It’s more comfortable to dream, to con ourselves that things are going really well. I know some of these people as their shearing numbers are never quite right or the number of lambs in the field don’t seem to marry up with what they are saying!
I do love this time of year as it enforces me to look at the options which are open to me. Having time to relax and have thoughts of what I can do in the year ahead. Let’s enjoy this hot weather (while it lasts!), celebrate what we have done so far and plan the next three months. And if you wish to share your successes to date and reveal your next quarterly goals, feel free to comment here and make that commitment to yourself…