The sheep and cattle have all had their young now (the pigs breed all year round) and the main events are now gathering in feed for the winter and shearing the sheep.
Sheep are shorn for a number of reasons: to keep them a bit cooler through the summer and to produce wool are the main two. At Newlyns the sheep are reared for meat and therefore the breeds here have coats that vary and are not of premium quality. That siad, they are still sold and will be sent to Bradford where most British wool is gathered to be distributed for washing and spinning into yarn.
I went along to see Rob demonstrate shearing at a local WI evening and he explained the process to us:
The sheep are sheared as close as possible, the aim being to get as much wool off as possible without cutting the sheep. Even after shearing their coats will fluff up again and they don’t feel the cold!
Rob controlled the sheep mainly with his legs and feet. It is important to hold them firmly to avoid them being hurt and to keep them calm. The sheep he was using for the demonstration had never been shorn before and seemed very calm about the whole process. Because of the lanolin produced in the sheep’s coat Rob wore leather mocassins and stood on a wooden board to prevent him slipping. The sheep are heavy and the work is pretty physical and they aim to shear as many sheep possible sheep each in a day. Each sheep takes just under a minute.
They begin by shearing up the belly of the sheep, a bit like undoing a jacket, and then work round the sides and back, making as few stokes with the clippers as possible. When sheep are usually shorn there is usually someone to gather the wool and bundle it for grading so that the shearers can get on with the next sheep.