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A Little Planning Goes a Long Way...

Here we are at the Vernal Equinox. It has been a long winter for all of us in Montana, but isn't that part of what we love about it? I love the seasons and savor every moment of every one.

I am sure the majority of you have been pouring over seed and poultry catalogs and maybe even planting some seed for starts. Around here it's lambing season and with that comes shearing. If a shepherd is lucky enough to get a shearing date before lambing, that is really the best plan. It gets the wool off and allows the shepherd to assess the ewe's condition. It also allows for easy access for the lambs to nurse. All of this planning just makes things easier for lambing time.

Shearing time is time for a fresh start. What do your fleeces look like? Unless you coat your sheep, chances are good that you've got some "debris" in them. Debris can mean lots of things. Vegetable matter, known as VM, can take many forms and we've seen them all in The Wool Mill. Hay, grass, twigs, rose briars, thorns, thistles, burs of every shape, size and pokiness, even recycled VM in the form of fecal

matter. Thankfully, most of this can be skirted out unless there's just too much. I've seen that too. That wool just gets composted. I won't accept that here in the mill.

How and what do you feed your sheep in the winter and who feeds them? Are you just tossing the hay out or over the fence to them? Are the sheep in the same pasture as you lay out their feed? How far apart are you spacing the hay? All of these things factor into the cleanliness of your wool, but more importantly, the comfort and happiness of your sheep. I mean, how would you feel if someone tossed hay into your wool sweater and made you wear it like that all winter? Above all, please check for Keds. They are a blood-sucking parasite who lives its entire life cycle on a sheep. Add that into your hay-infested wool sweater and imagine how you'd feel.

Wool health is a direct result of sheep health. There are small things you can do to improve the cleanliness of your fiber. Now that your sheep are starting fresh, you can too. The sheep will be happier for it

and you will be too. Clean fleece will bring you more money if you're selling raw fleeces. It will cost you less on incoming weight at the mill and in the end your roving, batts and yarn will all be cleaner too. It really takes very little planning and you get so much in return!

LaVonne Stucky lives in the Gallatin Valley and raises Romney/Gotland sheep. She owns and operates The Wool Mill and Serenity Sheep Farmstay.


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