michael harding shearing

A Shepherds Diary: June

Earlier in the year I made up my mind that I should learn to shear my sheep, and I booked a place on a course run by the British Wool Marketing Board (the co-op that collects and sells all the wool produced on UK farms).  It took place early this month on Sixpenny Farm near Rye, a good marsh farm with plenty of big Romney tegs to practise on.  The first thing was to get kitted out, because there is a specific set of clothes that you wear for shearing.  You need leather moccasins because you have to have your feet as flat and as close to the ground as possible for balance and grip as you manoeuvre the sheep around.  Special jeans that are double thickness on the front of the legs are also recommended, as the extra thick fabric acts as a barrier to the lanolin grease that coats everything after you have been handling the sheep. There were about fifteen people on the course, but I was the only one who had never sheared anything before.  I have to admit that I was pretty hopeless to start with, but with help and advice from the excellent instructors I eventually worked out what I was meant to be doing.  There is a series of moves you have to learn as you pivot the sheep around the shearing board, keeping it in control and balanced the whole time.  All I can say is that it is tiring work, and I am full of admiration for professional shearers!  I got my ‘Blue Seal, the beginners qualification, but I hope to get quicker and more efficient this summer as I am planning to shear my flock of 130 ewes and possibly a few more depending on how I get on with those!  Unfortunately the weather has been absolutely terrible recently so I haven’t got started on the main flock, let’s hope for some drier weather soon!

I bought a few in-calf Sussex cows last Autumn, and one of them calved yesterday, the first calf of the year.  It was a fat cow and with a large calf, and needed a bit of assistance to pull it out.  Luckily my uncle was able to come over and he showed me how to use the calving jack, a contraption that helps pull out calves when they are stuck, a useful lesson.  Cow and calf are doing fine now.