By Cindy Cloninger
You’ve reaped the benefits of wool in clothing, blankets, and now gardening with Wool Pellets and Nutri Wool Pots. But have you ever wondered what goes into shearing herd of sheep?
Spring is a busy time on a ranch, and it’s no different for the Wilde family on their ranch in Croydon, Utah. Working on a ranch that has been in the family for over 6 generations, in a valley nestled among the rocky mountains brings early mornings, hard work, beautiful views, and family togetherness.
With over 2800 sheep, the shearing process involves planning, and lots of people. Traditionally, shearing a herd of this size would take weeks and be near impossible to do alone. For one individual to shear one sheep requires about 20 minutes. For the Wilde herd, that’s roughly 240 hours. But modern practices are able to reduce time drastically. Professional shearers can shear one sheep in 5 minutes.
Sheep have evolved over the years because of human behavior of removing their wool.
Primitive sheep like Bighorns in the West still shed most of their wool every year. And domestic sheep, the ones raised primarily for their meat, will do some shedding. But for the majority of sheep, there is continual wool growth.
Wool just keeps growing and growing if humans don’t cut it off.
In New Zealand in 2004 a rancher happened upon a sheep that was barely recognizable. It was estimated that, Shrek (as he was named), was believed to have escaped shearing for 6 years by hiding in caves at shearing time.
When Shrek was eventually sheared, the wool cut weighed over 60 lbs! There was enough wool to produce 20 men’s suits.
Today, most modern ranchers hire traveling teams of shearers. This team starts out in California in early Jan and slowly makes it way eastward across the United States, ranch by ranch, ending the shearing season in June.
Each day having sheared 200 sheep, one team of professional shearers can easily end the season having sheared over 20,000 sheep. WOW!
During the winter, our herd grazes in Southern Utah about 50 miles west of Delta. In one day near the end of April they are loaded onto 10 semi trucks and brought back to Croydon. We plan for them to come in a little early, usually 1-2 days before shearing.
With the sheep in place and the hired teams brought in, shearing is ready to start. The herd is then separated out for the shearing by wool quality and breed.
With the exception of poultry, it is believed that there are more breeds of sheep than any other livestock species! Divided into categories for meat, wool/hair type, and face color. The most common types are fine wool, long wool, medium meat wool sheep, carpet wool (the coarsest wool), hair sheep, fat-tailed, short or rat-tailed, prolific breeds, and primitive breeds. The Rambouillet is the most common breed of sheep in the U.S. Besides being known for their high-quality wool, they are known for their longevity and strong flocking instinct.
Our ranch has 2 breeds of sheep, Columbia and Suffolk. The Columbia is one of the first breeds developed in the United States in nearby Laramie, Wyoming and refined in Idaho.. Columbia sheep were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as a true breeding type to replace cross breeding on the range. In 1912, rams of the long wool breeds were crossed with high quality Rambouillet ewes to produce large ewes yielding more pounds of wool and more pounds of lamb. Columbia sheep are bred for the softness of the wool and classified as a medium wool. They are large, white faced and have heavy white fleece that grows all over.
Suffolk are black faced and bred mainly for meat with coarser wool. If you’ve been to the county fair, this is the breed that are shown by adults and children in FFA shows.
The sheep are taken into the shearing containers where these expert shearers begin their work. The annual shearing most often occurs in a shearing shed, a facility especially designed to process hundreds. Some ranches shear more than 3,001 sheep per day in these facilities with professional shearers.
Some professional shearers can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes. The world record is 37.9 seconds!!
Once freed from their wooly winter coats, the sheep are then released to graze in the green mountain pastures from May to November.
During shearing, the fleece is removed in one piece. High-quality fleeces are skirted. Skirting is when the undesirable parts of the fleece are removed from the rest of the fleece. Undesirables include bellies, top knots, and tags.
The soft, high quality wool is taken and loaded onto trucks where they are taken to wool markets and companies bid on the wool. These end up in sweaters, blankets, suits, and all sorts of textiles and uses for consumers.
Waste wool, that has traditionally been unsellable still has it’s uses. The Albert Wilde took this waste wool and created, WOOL PELLETS. Wool Pellets are made from this less desirable fleece and are the perfect aid to your garden soil. What he discovered creates an entirely all natural, organic and recyclable addition that boosts plant growth of all kinds.
The natural occurring property of wool carries a natural fertilizing value of 9-0-2 NPK. Their wooly nature holds up to 20x their weight in water, reducing watering times without causing rot. The microscopic make up of wool is like a tiny barbed wire for common garden pests like slugs and snails. Created in easy to mix pellets they release slowly over time giving just the right amount of nutrients while allowing much needed room for oxygen and root growth.
NutriWool Organic Wool Pellets
Wool Pellets are 100% Raw Wool from sheep, that adds nutrition to your plants. Wool Pellets are a 9-0-2 grade fertilizer. Wool Pellets will help hold water helping to reduce watering by 25% while still keeping the porosity in your soils. An 8 oz bag will cover about 15 square feet and is enough for at least 6 gallons of soil if used as directed. Free Shipping on orders of 4 or more!
Nutri Wool Pot
Nutri Wool Pots are a 2.5 Quart fabric pot that are made in the USA. Nutri Wool pots will help air prune roots, and will hold water better than any other fabric pot. Are 100% bio-degradable and will help feed plants when pots are placed in the soil.
With sheep aiding in the creation of wool pellets for your garden, flower beds and gardens bursting with strong and robust blooms are a natural part of Springtime. Nothing says spring like freshly shorn sheep and what comes after…..lambing.
Virtual Assistant, blog manager, email & social media marketing assistant, web development. I enjoy hiking, fresh fruits & veggies, planting flowers, and cooking great meals. But I love being a wife and mother the most. When I'm not doing all of those, I love to read and try new things. Despite the forecast, live like it's spring.