The Gentle Shepherdess

Written by [email protected] on Dec. 9, 2012 in Dye House News, La Laine

I was recently reading on the web a description of how some shearers mistreat sheep. It has been haunting me, coming myself from an organic farming background I had no idea that these things could happen, What follows is an e-mail 'discussion' I had with Sheila Hendry the shepherdess of the Poll Dorset flock who provide our wool.

Sheila and her Gloucester Old Spots

Some shearers mistreat the sheep. I suspect this happens more on big farms where the sheep are bred as in a factory and where perhaps the shearers are not trained or selected with care.

We select our shearers carefully... there are not many shearers who are sweet to their charges... but ours are. I could not stand the stress if our animals were stressed! Kind words, gentle consideration 'tween sheep and shearer is needed. Most shearers dip their shearing heads in diesel! handle the sheep roughly, kick it around and then treat the shorn fleece as worthless... these types are not welcome on our land.

It gives me a feeling of ease that your sheep producing the wool are treated with respect and care. I was wondering approximately how many fleeces went into the wool we took to Italy in July? This will result in 380 kilos of fine 4 ply wool, to be delivered from Italy in the New Year.

If I remember correctly we had 230 fleeces and I believe about 150 from the Elliot's. So that is roughly 1 kilo of spun wool for each sheep!

When do your sheep lamb?

We lamb naturally in September and October.

How do you deal with tails and blow fly?

We leave tails on and trim the wool; back before the lush spring grass plays havoc with the sheep's digestive system.

And what are your thoughts on castrating?

I have never castrated an animal in my life...totally barbaric & unnecessary !

Do you keep all your old sheep until they die YES and how do you select new owners when they need to go on, as after last years drought and when you are thinking of cutting back.

I sell only to Organic couples or generally to women, as all my young sheep need a kind voice and a sympathetic attitude I don't advertise, it's done by word of mouth... I have some beautiful Poll Dorsets for sale at the moment if you know of any like minded shepherdesses!

I know that you bring sick lambs into your kitchen, and ewes and their triplets as well!... we have a large central hallway and a big kitchen.

I am also sure you told me how you do the lambing but that I can't remember.

Lambing is done by watching quietly and helping if necessary, no pulling, heaving, intervention, pessaries, antibiotics, separation, tail docking, ear tagging... none of that... a safe warm lambing, and rest, recuperation, a cool drink and a quite place for mother and offspring to bond.,

Do you leave them out all the time?

We lamb indoor's at night and everyone out during the day. Horses, donkey & Alpacas share the fox early warning system.

Do you leave the ram in to defend them from foxes etc?

Rams are more interested in sex, food and sleep than protection of the flock, whereas the Alpacs take the job very seriously as well as being fluffy white objects for lambs to play, jump and sleep on.

Sheila's Poll Dorsets grazing peacefully in the shade in the woods.

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Discussions: 2 comments

Comments

NancyN

NancyN on 12/10/2012 3:39 p.m.

What lucky sheep! No wonder the yarn is such a delight to handle.

jake

jake on 02/04/2014 1:32 a.m.

I wanna thank her for introducing us to the best band Scotland ever produced. Yep, its RUNRIG, who else can compete with them. A truly remarkable lady indeed. She is ageing with grace and beauty. as well. You forgot to mention that she has a top notch brain under her. own shock of hair

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