When I told folks that we were shearing sheep, the usual reaction was, “Whoa! Isn’t it a little early?”
It’s true that most of the sheep are shorn in late April (if all goes well), right before they lamb. Since we raise our own rams, we have two farm flocks of ewes–one Rambouillet and one Hampshire. These ewes lamb mostly in March. It helps a lot if they can be shorn before lambing. If a ewe feels a chill, she will take her lambs to seek shelter. If her belly is bare, it is easier for the lambs to find her nipples and get a first good meal of colostrum.
Shearing is always risky if the weather can turn cold. In 1984, a quarter of a million sheep in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas died after a long and severe April storm. A few days wool growth offers some protection. Our shearer, Cliff Hoopes of Hoopes Sheep Shearing, came with his shearer Jamie and nephew Kyle, wool handler. Cliff and Jamie used course blades, which leave some extra wool on the sheep.
We were blessed with several days of warmish weather, and got through with a good shearing. Thank you, Cliff and crew!