Friday, February 22, 2008

Sheep Shearing CANCELLED

It's still positively arctic. The forecast is for more snow, more sleet, more cold. Intermittant cold around shearing day is annoying, but this is relentless.

Our usual fluctuating winter weather can be a challenge, but at least there are warm spells where we can rest and regroup and move the things that are frozen to the ground. This season tings seem only to thaw enough to create pools of water in which gates can be come impossible to open.

We decided to postpone our shearing day until Thursday, March 13. (Sorry, my job won't let me take another Saturday off). Hopefully another 2 1/2 weeks will see things thawed out and settled into more seasonal weather.

A number of years ago, we sheared after a week of balmy spring weather. About 24 hours later, the thermometer plunged to the low teens, and the wind blew brutally. Many sheep lost significant weight during this time, and the ones that started out thinner simply collapsed. Through careful nursing, they all survived...but it was touch and go, with one very pregnant ewe lamb off her feet (and feed) for three weeks of intensive care. (Cleo is still with us.) This was our one experience with hypocalcemia--milk fever, an acute calcium deficiency not uncommon around lambing time when the nutritional demands are high. How did we give the ewes the additional calcium they needed? We lined them up and fed them Tums! Cheap and low-tech...and added a touch of humor to a grim, grueling season.

My current off-farm job won't allow the flexibility to deal with a repeat of this experience, so we decided "better safe than sorry".

This rescheduling does mean that we'll be starting to lamb while the ewes are in full fleece. We'll probably try to "crutch" the ewes closest to birthing. This is a partial shearing, of just the soiled wool around the tail and udder area, to make it easier to see changes in the ewe's vulva and udder that herald imminent lambing.

I'm still sorry, for all of you who won't be able to attend on the 13th. But there will be other shearings, and you're always welcome.

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