Have you any woool?
In fact, Scotch here, does have quite a bit of wool. She and her girlfriends, Luna, and Truffle, are going to receive their Spring shearing this coming weekend.
We have never done this before.
That being said, we have done our research, watched tutorials, spoke with veteran Shepherds, and have a brand new set of clippers at the ready.
In doing our reading, I came across a lot of interesting information about wool in general and the Icelandic Sheep breed, that I thought I would share here with you...
Wool is flame retardant. A cool science experiment is to take some 100% wool fabric and set it on fire. It will quickly extinguish itself. It does this because wool contains a naturally high nitrogen and water content. It is one reason why wool is popular to use in military and fireman uniforms as well as carpets and upholstery.
Wool can be worn during any time of the year. I know, you think of it as that warm wool coat for winter time, but if there is anything I’ve learned from working with wool, it’s that it has some serious variety. Wool can be thin or thick. I’ve seen it made into a ballgown, swimsuit, dress, and structured suit. Not only can the fabric be made into various weights, but the properties of wool can keep you both warm and cool. Because it is an absorbent fiber, it keeps you dry and warm when the air is cool and damp. It also keeps you cool by collecting perspiration, allowing your natural cooling system to work its best.
Wool is a natural deodorant. Because wool is a natural antimicrobial, it is much more resistant to retaining odor. I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to sweat easily. If that’s going to happen, my deodorant needs all the help it can get!
Wool is comparatively stronger than steel. This fiber will last you for years. It won’t tear as easily as other fibers. If you are concerned with the expense of wool, know that it is well worth the investment.
Wool is stain resistant—wool fiber has a protective layer that helps it not to absorb stains. Not only that, but it is also anti-static. Living somewhere that has cold winters (hello Nebraska), static has a whole new meaning. The static is real, and I can totally appreciate a fiber that is anti-static.
Icelandic sheep are unique as they have an exterior wool that is more coarse and hardy, and an underlayer that is softer. They also produce a grease called, lanolin, that makes the wool water resistant. They can be shorn twice a year as opposed to only once in the Spring for other breeds, so they are efficient producers as well.
The breed is super hardy in cold climates and does not require a regular grain regiment as part of their diet, making them easy keepers. They can be used for fiber, and milking, but are most frequently bred for meat as they have a quick maturity rate that brings them to butcher weight a bit earlier than other breeds.
The wool shorn from a sheep is called a fleece.
The fleece is then skirted (hay, soiled wool, and debris removed) and washed.
It is then carded (sort of blended and fluffed) into roving (a loose fluffly looking "yarn").
The roving is then used for various projects including needle felting and spinning for crochet, knitting, embroidery, etc.
Some notes about shearing from iamcountryside.com
Wool continues to grow if not shorn, making the sheep uncomfortable. The heavy wool begins to pull on the skin and can lead to skin sores. Those sores can attract flies, leading to possible fly strike.
Unshorn sheep become itchy in the heat and begin rubbing on hay racks, fences and each other. This can lead to fence damage and damaged fleece. Rubbing the wool causes the fleece to felt on the sheep’s body.
Flystrike. The dirty unshorn wool invites flies. Shearing the wool before the flies hatch, gets rid of the dirty soiled fleece. Any cuts or abrasions that occur during shearing will heal quickly before fly season.
Early shearing gives the shepherd a chance to assess the animal’s condition after the winter. Condition refers to the animal’s weight, and also health. Check eyes, ears, body mass, feet, and tail area. Check for redness or irritation in the genital and urethra area.
Shearing the sheep is beneficial for them, and exciting for us to be able to utilize what they no longer need. It's neat to have a sustainable source for sweaters on the ranch.
We will share an update about how the experience goes for us! We have asked for some extra hands to join us, and are busy preparing a tool kit to keep everything clean, safe, and smooth throughout the process.
Photography for this article provided by Berwick, ME photographer. Her work, and more of our ranch residents can be seen on Instagram by following @envisionberwick.me