08 April 2010

Shearing Day

I'm admitedly almost two weeks late in getting this post up, but I did want to share some photos and stories from our spring sheep shearing. We have a woman who drives up from Indiana to do the job; she's an expert with fine wool breeds like our Icelandics, and watching her work has convinced us this is something we want to leave to an expert.

First, we got the entire adult flock (nine ewes and two rams) tied up with halters:

Here they are, looking in from outside:

Lisa then began shearing the ewes. Note the lambs examing Mom's huge udder and wondering what's going on:

Most of the lambs decided to hang out together until all the excitement was over.

Dilemma, the big breeding ram, had a magnificent set of horns. Unfortunately, they were badly pressing against his face and would've crushed his skull had we let him keep them. And note how badly his vision was compromised by them:

So, after getting sheared ...

We tied him with two halters, and anchored them to a pair of eye rings mounted on the barn. It was unfortunately the only way to hold him still. We then used a wire PVC cutter to saw through his horns one at a time. The friction of the wire helped cauterize the blood flow as it went through, but he still bled quite a bit. Scooter the border collie enjoyed lapping up the blood. No doubt that's a predator control instinct that got bred into him 500 years ago.

By the time we finished, and bandaged him up with gauze and duct tape, Dilemma was one very unhappy sheep (today, he's looking much better).

Adding to the indignity, the yearling ram immediately challenged his position. Dilemma, tired as he was from struggling, did put the yearling ram back in his place.

The big question was...what do we do with the horns? They were too nice to throw away, but they were of no use to us.

I put the word out on Facebook, and within days heard back from an old junior high school friend in Seattle. He's a knife enthusiast, and had put the word out on those message boards. He'd heard from someone in Alabama who was looking for ram horn to use for making knife handles. I got in contact with that person, to discuss a transaction. I'd never sold horns before, and he'd never bought them...so neither of us was sure what the market price should be. I mostly just wanted these things to be put to good use, so I told him $25 would cover the cost of shipping and cutting them off the ram. He thought that was fair, and immediately sent the money via PayPal. And I got them in the mail that afternoon.

Which I think is an illustration of online social networking at its best. People of similiar interests can now find each other and connect, no matter where they might be physically located. We're brought together by our interests, rather than the accidents of our geography. This is not to dismiss the importance of local communities, but rather to emphasize the positives of virtual communities.

Twenty years ago, I probably would've tossed these horns in the trash. But with the power of social networking, Dilemma's horns will someday grace the handle of a nice knife.


Anonymous said...

Poor Dilemma. I do hope you gave him the comfort of a nice warm bath to get all that blood off his coat and legs. He is a beautiful ram!

Terri said...

Dilemma looks so embarressed!Poor boy!

Sara said...

It is totally okay if you don't publish this comment, but I have to say that although you seem to be genuinely concerned with the high welfare of your animals, I find this appalling. To perform such an extreme procedure without pain control, sedation, cautery, or veterinary supervision is the stuff of nightmares. My heart breaks for that ram.