tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

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

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!
Tags: fear my rambliness, in which i regale you, shearing, sheep, sheep geek
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