A day in the life of a farm-hand...
1. Get sheep out of the paddock.
Make sure that you haven't left any behind, and remember to shut the gate..
2. Drove sheep into the yards and draft off any lambs, or silly sheep who have got into the wrong paddock.
( Drafting is sorting the sheep out as they run through a narrow passageway in the yards using a gate at the end to direct the sheep into a yard on either side . Another term for this passageway is 'race'.)
3.' Shoo' the sheep into the shed to be penned up for the night. Hope that they run in well and follow behind each other, especially if it looks like rain. This exercise, and it is exercise, usually ensures that no-one attends gym the next day, you get plenty just doing this!
4. The next day. Pen up the sheep into the little pens where your friendly local shearer 'Jeff' will be able to drag them out on to the shearing board to remove their fleece.
5. Keep this pen topped up all day or you will hear your friendly local shearer call 'sheepo'. (as opposed to 'sheep poo' which is a whole other thing!)
6. Your friendly local shearer will first shear off the belly of the sheep. That is the wool off the belly. This gets put aside and then the whole fleece is shorn off in one piece, with the friendly local shearer twisting the sheep around and turning himself this way and that until the sheep is done.
The sheep come out of the wool a lovely snowy white color. It must feel so good to get rid of the weight of the wool, as they are always so quick on their feet once they are shorn. Before the fleece comes off they can be very cantankerous, not wanting to move, and certainly not wanting to go where you would like them to.
7. The wool is gathered up in a bundle off the shearing board and thrown onto the wool table where the 'scraggy' bits are removed and thrown into a bin for the 'pieces'. The little bits of wool which fall off the fleece are called locks. These usually fall straight through the bars on the wool table onto the floor.
8. Once the fleece has been skirted, it is rolled into a ball and the friendly local wool-classer 'Wes', comes along and decides which bin it goes into. If you look at a piece of wool you see the fibres whether they are course or fine, what the color is, if it has a break in the wool. These signs indicate what 'class' the wool is, or what type it is. Once this is decided, the wool is pressed up in the wool press, and turned into bales.
9. The sheep are counted outside the shearing shed once they are shorn for the 'tally'. This indicates how many sheep the local friendly shearer has shorn and we pay him per sheep for the pleasure of shearing!
10. The sheep then have to have the equivalent of our hair lice treatment applied to their backs. You only have to have someone else's sheep get into your paddock carrying little nasties and soon your flock carries them too. This happened this year, so we are diligently applying blue stripes of treatment to the 'girls' backs.
11. This is the stage where you pray for warm weather for the sheep to go out into. We usually try and save lush feed and sheltered paddocks for the 'girls' when they are bare shorn.
This endeth Shearing 101.