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Because you really wanted to know, you just didnt' know it yet - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 21st, 2012

08:41 am - Because you really wanted to know, you just didnt' know it yet

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Last night's sheep - you know, the 14 fat wethers? Turned out to be 2 lambs, 4 ewes, 2 wethers, 5 rams and 2 cryptorchids. If you're thinking that's a funny balance of gender for a flock of sheep, you'd be thinking right. I'm not sure how it happened and nor is their owner, but she's realised this isn't ideal because as previously mentioned, this little farm is attached to a child care centre, and the rams/cryptorchids are fully adult now and getting big and bolshy. They were fine with me but apparently they are approaching scary with each other, and there's no way the kids are allowed near them. Also, tupping time is coming, which never brings out the inner pacifist in a ram. So she's looking at trading all the boys except one for ewes. Good move, says the one who has to shear them.

Also, they were boufhead Romneys.


Some would say "It's a disgruntled US politician, duh!" And they wouldn't be far wrong. But in NZ it's something completely different.

Aside here: now the US election is over, I'm looking forward to my googling of Romney bringing up sheep again, just saying.

So the Romney is the most common breed of sheep in New Zealand. They originated in Romney Marsh in England and Marsh being the operative word, they are ideally suited for NZ conditions. Not that NZ is a marsh or anything, but we have a high rainfall and humidity over most of the country, and we need sheep that can handle wet conditions. The arid areas we run merinos, and everywhere else it's Romneys pretty much. The only other breed that features is a NZ-developed one called the Perendale (which is a cross between Romney and Cheviot) - pretty much every other breed is in small enough numbers to be more of a specialty than anything.

Back in Ye Olden Tymes when wool was actually worth anything, the idea was to get as much wool as possible of each sheep. In Merinos, this was achieved by maximising the skin area and thus the wool-growing capacity. That's why Merinos are all with the wrinkles. In the Romney, it was about breeding the ones that had the most wool coverage, so you ended up with sheep that grew wool almost out from between their nostrils:


The boufhead Romney


These things are fun to shear. They have soft skin and heavy fleeces, and shearing ears and noses is always a delicate business. Yes you do actually have to shear their ears, otherwise they end up looking like they have pom poms stuck on the sides of their head.

Anyway, some people realised that the wool that grows on ears and toes isn't actually quality wool, and started breeding Romneys without this excessive boufiness, and these became much more common in later times:


The Marshall Romney


Note how much less wool this one has on its face. The legs are the same, and that's the main difference. They're also a bit more active so they do well on hill country.

But every now and then the old boufhead gene pops up and last night's sheep were a prime example of it. Luckily, one of the things that goes alongside the excessive wool growth and paddle feet is a docile nature. They tend to just sit there while you shear their eyelashes and between their toes. Which is a good thing because should they decide to get violent it'd be nasty.

Thus endeth the unasked-for lesson on the two strains of Romney sheep that live in New Zealand.


Also, in Things Tats Hates About Shearing, I cut the pet lamb. Sometimes cuts just happen when there's a twitch at the wrong moment and it's always sucky, but when it happens with the pet lamb that the daycare kids have been bottle feeding, it's orders of magnitude worse. For most of the shearing I'd had an audience of about 10 kids and their folks, but luckily I did the lambs last and they'd all gone home by then. Still, boo.

Anyway, I'm now caught up with the shearing, ready for another bunch on Saturday. And the YoT is getting better at both driving and catching sheep. I pay him to catch them for me because a) it's good for him and b) it makes my life so much easier. And he gets driving practice. Win!

Comments:

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From:m_danson
Date:November 20th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
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They look... big.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. Fully mature the ewes weigh on average 60kg, and the rams can get up to 100kg. Given that I currently weigh 60kg, I consider shearing a workout. ;-)
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From:thatgirljj
Date:November 20th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
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Yikes!
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From:raincitygirl
Date:November 20th, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC)
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I never knew anything about shearing I until you we're on my f-list. Score for me!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad someone finds it interesting! I'm such a geek about sheep it's a bit silly. I even gave a talk about shearing technology at nerdnite once. And people listened! OMG!
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:November 21st, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
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Oh, no. I find it quite interesting as well.
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From:t_c_da
Date:November 21st, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
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I always find your sheep posts interesting, so I'm with her (ms_hecubus) up there too...
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From:downwardlashes
Date:November 20th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
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Was it awkward shearing the sheep with an audience? Were the kids like, "Stop beating up our sheepies!"?

Boufhead Romney, that is just killing me. LOLOLOL
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
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I'm kind of used to it now, but yeah - it adds a whole new dimension to the job when there's a bunch of people watching.

Once I had a sheep die while I was shearing it - it had been a bit stressed in the pen and I think it had a heart attack or something. All the neighbourhood kids were watching and now they think I can kill things with my mind. ;-)
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From:richaarde
Date:November 20th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I'm still not seeing the difference between the sheep and the politician.
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From:bekitty
Date:November 20th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
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The sheep are more intelligent.
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From:richaarde
Date:November 20th, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for clearing that up, both of you. lol
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
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The sheep have better ideology. Also, prettier.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:November 20th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
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And much, much woolier.
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From:richaarde
Date:November 20th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
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True, but the politician's hair is always perfect.
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From:tieke
Date:November 20th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
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Tats doesn't normally wrestle the politicians to the ground and shave them. But she probably should.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
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You couldn't pay me enough to go round Romney's crutch. Just saying.
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From:tieke
Date:November 20th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
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But, don't you care if he gets flystrike?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 21st, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
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That's what docking is for.

But I think he may need drenching, he seems to have something stuck in his craw right about now.
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From:ecosopher
Date:November 22nd, 2012 01:01 pm (UTC)
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Mmm, drenching. I think he might have already had a dose, considering his expression during the final debate.


I love reading your posts about sheep. Sheep are awesome and I miss them. Not sure I could farm them, since I'd want to treat them like pets (my dad was once telling me about a friend of his who had 10 000 sheep permanently adjisted, and I said, 'but you'd never get to know them!' and my dad just laughed).

I remember watching my pet lamb (Anne) get sheared, and the shearer was telling me how much he hated shearing pet lambs! He said he always left more on than he would do normally, in an effort to avoid cutting them!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 22nd, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
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I think pet lambs are the bane of shearers everywhere. Especially because pet lamb owners tend to like watching little Jessie be shorn...
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From:meathiel
Date:November 21st, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
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I really like the wooly version of the sheep - it looks cute! ;-)
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:November 21st, 2012 03:21 pm (UTC)
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Bring on the sheep lessons!

Seriously, it intersects several interests of mine: animals, genetics (my training is medical genetics, but I've been a dork about all genetics since my dad let me raise hamsters in 7th grade) and fabric (specifically wool - the fibre of the Gods. I love sewing and wearing that stuff).
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
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My last finished spinning project was Romney and I kind of cringed whenever someone asked what I was spinning. I'm pretty sure it will be used for socks rather than mittens at least!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Bahahaha! I reckon having a pair of Romney mitts would be awesome!

My Mum had Romneys so I have Romney everything. But most people here don't make the connection..
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC)
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We hear lots about US politics here, so that is always he first thing people thought.

Though I have to ask, is it normally a neppy wool or was that just the stuff I had? I found it horrid to draft and my end yarn is not nearly as smooth as I prefer.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 21st, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
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I haven't particularly found it so, but because it's a stronger wool (higher micron) any break* in it will be more likely to cause neps than a finer one would. Also, if the shearer did a crappy job and it's full of shorter bits (second cuts), that can do it too.

* I'm not sure if this is a spinning term but it happens when the sheep goes through a period of stress (usually winter or lambing) and the diameter of the fibre decreases, making a weakness.
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 21st, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
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That is totally also a spinning term and I know just what you mean. I'm not sure if it was the wool or the fibre prep since I got it as a batt. I suspect I just hate spinning from carded preps in generally, but I'd never had one so bad.

We'll see how I like the socks though once I get to knitting them. I keep hearing Romney is fantastic for socks since it is so strong. I'd probably do better with a fleece. I have a Karakul lamb to process once I'm done with this Jacob, but no plans after that. It'll be a while yet, but I think I'd do better if I combed it myself. The length and micron count look perfect for my combs too.

The most common breed around us are Texels, but I rarely see their wool for sale since they are just meat sheep. But they'd make good socks too though.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 21st, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh god, the Texel craze here happened when I was working in shearing gangs. They're bloody horrible to handle, mostly because they're built like pitbulls and are stroppy. A bunch of people crossed them over Romneys and it produced large, muscular, mean sheep that needed shearing. Ugh.

It sounds to me like your wool may have been carded with second cuts in it. They tend to disappear in the carding but pop out again in the spinning. A good Romney fleece is awesome to handle and supposedly one of the best for learner spinners. And yeah, gumboot socks made from Romney are awesome!
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 25th, 2012 03:47 am (UTC)
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Here they crossed them with Suffolks which turns the nice tall Suffolk into a bulldog looking cross too.
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