We shear our Leicester Longwool sheep twice a year, in August and in February. The February shearing guarantees they are clean and tidy before they lamb in March or April. And the August shearing is much appreciated in the dog days of summer. We are very fortunate to have an incredibly kind and calm shearer who clips them with hand shears– we have so few sheep it’s not onerous to shear the traditional way. But shearing can lead to some tragicomedy. This year, two sisters didn’t recognize each other after their fleece was gone, and spent two days bleating and butting before they figured out who the other was (or decided this new sheep wasn’t so bad after all).The fleece from each sheep has its own character. The two below are a full year’s fleece– 12 months– and thei first year’s fleece, from ewes who were not bred. This fleece its most highly prized, especially by handspinners, since there were no pregnancy hormones to weaken the fleece. As more resources are used by a pregnant ewe, her fleece can weaken.
Here’s a front view of a newly shorn girl. She looks so tiny compared to her bulk in 14 inches of fleece! The Leicester Longwool fleece is naturally iridescent, so they sheep actually sparkle in the sun after they are shorn (and before they get dirty again!)