Category Archives: out & about

Sheep Shearing in the UK

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Following on from my previous post – the video of shearing a shetland sheep in USA – I thought I’d add a couple of my old photos of sheep shearing, taken about 30 years ago!  I can’t remember where I took them – somewhere in South Wales.

 

 

These are scans of the A6 sepia postcards I published of the original photos – which is why they aren’t very sharp.  The sheep were being sheared in a field, and they were penned to make it easier to do the shearing as quickly as possible.

I did a search for shearing in the UK, to get a bit more info on when shearing is done here, and found this useful piece, oddly enough, published under the name of Sheep Shearing in the UK by Indie Farmer.

 

 

These are a couple of colour photos from that site.

And this is the first part of the blog – written in July 2014

The sheep shearing season in the UK (roughly mid May to mid July) is pretty much finished now, so farmers will be pleased that one difficult and time consuming job is over for another year, and the sheep will be happy to have got rid of their thick fleeces in this hot weather.

Shearing requires both skill and a lot of hard, physical work in hot summer conditions.  Some farmers shear their own sheep but many, especially those with large flocks (anything over a few hundred sheep) hire specialist shearing gangs to do the work for them.  Shearing gangs typically have three to eight members, and travel the country going from farm to farm, shearing every day during the season.  It is a hard life but pay can be good, about £2 a sheep and a good shearer can shear 200 sheep per day.  When the UK shearing season is over, the shearing gangs often travel to other countries where the shearing season is at a different time of year, in what is known as ‘the shearing circuit’, travelling from the UK to Norway, the USA, the Falklands, New Zealand, Australia, and pretty much anywhere that you can find plenty of sheep!  It is a very tough, hard working and hard drinking lifestyle, but it’s a good way to see the world, have fun and make some money.

Wool used to be where the main profit was in sheep farming, with meat as a useful sideline.  Many of the great Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built using the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a ceremonial Woolsack to represent the importance of wool to the economy in former times.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being a very minor sideline.

It’s always useful to know a bit more about where your wool comes from!  Especially for spinners who are carding and spinning the raw fleeces!

PS. PLUG!

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pair of standard hand carders – 72 pt

I sell hand carders that can deal with raw fleeces and all types of wool fibres – and also are quite useful as brushes for sheep and other animals if you are tidying up your stock for Agricultural Shows.  The current listings can be found if you click on the links below.

Listed on julzcraftstore.com here

USE THE COUPON CODE  customer10%off  at the checkout to get 10% off your order.

Listed on etsy here

Listed on ebay here

A Wonderful Vintage Straw Baler: at Llandysul Agricultural Show

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Yes, I know this is a total change of subject!

I went to Llandysul Agricultural Show yesterday, and it was the best organised show I’ve been to, beautifully laid out, with plenty of room for all the animals and their owners transport.  The weather was warm and  the views of the hills around the area, gave it a very relaxed feel.  Unfortunately for the organisers, it wasn’t as full of visitors as they’d have liked.

I “got into” agricultural shows when I first moved from London to Ystalyfera, and found myself co-opted as “official photographer” of the Swansea Valley Show – which unfortunately is no longer held.

If you happen to share my enthusiasm – there’s quite a lot of my photos of various shows taken over the years, on my rather neglected other blog  “The Spare”

You can find Sennybridge Show HERE  and HERE (kids in fancy dress on their ponies) and a collection of my favourites HERE

fullsizeoutput_273The straw baler is powered here by running the tractor connected to the 1948 machine through the long ‘canvas band’ which turns the wheels.  I’m not sure what the original power source was – all I can say is that it makes a very satisfying mesmerising racket!

In this demonstration, the straw is in the white sacks on the ground and thrown up to the man at the top who empties them into the hopper.

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(PS: after I published this I had a thought – it must have been a thresher with a straw baler, cos that big piece of machinery wasn’t made just to ‘straighten straw’!  – I just assumed it was a baler cos that was what it was doing at the time – and there wasn’t any information board in front of the machine – apologies!)

Which comes out “combed” at the other end.  The man who was making sure the straw got into the next part of the process, has stood in the wrong place, so he’s got straw on his back instead.  However, its a great picture to show where the straw is coming from!  It then goes thro’ the actual baler, and gets compacted into the familiar shape of a straw bale – and I think – the bale is automatically tied with twine to keep it in shape.

I did manage to have a quick word with the owner as they were packing up the machine, near the end of the show, and he told me it was a 1948 machine that he actually brought down from Scotland, as the machine was never used in Wales, because it was too expensive.  He bought it for £6,000 about 5 years ago and had to do a fair bit of work on it to get it running again!

It must be a huge job, transporting it anywhere – just wondering how he even got it to the Show Field!  It attracted a lot of attention from the visitors.

A few more pictures – I didn’t try to cover the whole show, there were also cows & sheep and dogs etc etc as well as a craft tent and the all important food and beer tents!

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