Rooing the day

Recently we rooed one of the ram lambs, Dingus.  It was a pretty successful experiment, we got a lot of fleece off him.  We are going to try rooing the entire flock and shearing whatever doesn’t roo off ourselves instead of doing a professional spring shear.  This will avoid the “carpet” look of spring fleeces and also provide more open locks for spinning instead of a more felting-friendly dense wool.

I also snagged a few locks from the other rams while feeding them.


Locks from Scottie, Dingus and Bucky, from left to right. The crumbly bits at the bottoms of the locks are mostly dirt or skin flaking. Both wash right out and are not a processing problem.


Rooed fleece from Dingus. Looser and more open than if we’d sheared, as it’s the natural wool break, so the denser new growth stays on the sheep instead of matting.


More of Dingus’ fleece. It looks a lot more like the fall shearing this way, which is why if an Icelandic shepherd can roo their flock, it’s really a great way to collect the spring wool.




Fiber Fusion Fiasco

This was a pretty crazy weekend.  I took Shaft’s fleece to Fiber Fusion for sale, and we took a peek around.  Compared to last year, Fiber Fusion had more vendors and appeared to be busier.  A lot of the people appeared pretty interested in buying and there was a shift in vendor makeup towards vendors that supplied equipment and finished/processed goods rather than “raw” fiber.

Having said that, there was also a massive increase in people offering raw fleeces for sale.  The increase was so great they set aside another building just for raw fleeces.

But then they didn’t really let anyone know how to get to it, or where it was, or how to submit a fleece for sale or judging (two separate desks).  So I and a bunch of other people put our raw fleeces out excitedly and hoped for a sale, but nobody knew our beautiful fleeces were there, so almost nothing sold.  The same fleeces I saw when I put mine out were still there at the end of the day on Sunday when I went to claim my unsold fleece. Alas.  Here’s hoping they’ll get the hang of things next year, this is still a new festival and working all the kinks out takes time.

As for the rest of the fleece, we broke down and got a dehumidifier so air drying would not take days on end.  It’s been quite effective and we are delighted with the results.  We set up in the garage, it is easiest to dry fleece there.

The sheep hacked the barn and ran amok when I lay all the fall fleeces out to air dry in the barn after shearing day.  So my project for the next few months is to shake all the hay out of the fleeces.  It looks pretty bad, as these pictures suggest, but it’s not really.  However, I’m not eager to do it again, so next  year all the fleeces go straight into mesh bags on shearing day.


Fleeces waiting to be air dried.




Air drying. This is a drying rack meant for “herb”, but we find it works great for wool instead.


The VM situation looks terrible, but most of that stuff comes out quickly when the locks are totally dry rather than slightly damp.


This drying rack holds a full mesh bag of fleece, which is about 2 fleeces’ worth of wool.


Bucky’s fleece survived the onslaught and is drying on a metal rack that is good for individual fleeces, but not as awesome as the “herbal” drying rack.


It hangs from a rafter. Very easy to set up and take down, just a wonderful find.


One last look at Bucky’s fall clip. It is soft and looks pretty good. Should wash up nicely for sale.

As you can see, we’re finally starting to formalize our processing so I can develop a routine and just always be preparing wool for sale or home use.  Also, I’m taking up knitting.  It’s a great way to use up the bulky, lumpy yarn I am likely to produce with my current newbie level of wool combing experience.

The actual sheep are doing ok and already have plenty of wool grown in for the winter.

Not quite how I was expecting to get some wool to work

This was what I came into the house with.

This was what I came into the house with.

This is what happened after some time in the warm, dry house.

This is what happened after some time in the warm, dry house.

Bucky is rooing like crazy, so we might not get to shear him after all, but instead end up with a giant pile of hanks that have to be turned into something higher-value or tossed in the old compost heap.

I’ll probably have more off him throughout the week.  It’s not as hay-full as I thought it would be, so there’s that.

Sheep math, running costs edition

Our running costs for sheep look like they will end up about $150 per sheep per year.  This is hay, minerals, vaccines/vet, water and other consumables (including the shearer).  This isn’t counting infrastructure like the fencing or the hay feeder they eat out of.  All the sheep can provide one fleece per year, and the ewes are supposed to additionally provide 2 lambs average per year.

I am not sure how to assign the rams a cash value for fathering the lambs, so I’ll just note that the ram fleeces would have to bring in $150 apiece to cover their running costs.  To keep things really simple, the ram fleeces are likely to yield 5lbs of raw fleece after shearing and skirting of rough ends.  This means carding the fleece into roving (moderate level of processing, maybe three hours a fleece).  Roving sells for about $35-40/lb.  So we would have to do some processing with the ram fleeces to get enough per pound to cover their running costs.

Things are much easier with the ewes, who provide lambs and fleece and lamb fleeces!

The ewe fleeces will yield less, they were sheared late summer last year and the rams were never sheared at all (being lambs when we bought them).  The ewes should give about 4lbs of usable raw fleece after skirting.  For each lamb, 1.5lbs of raw fleece is a good estimate.  So each ewe ideally would give us 7lbs total to sell to cover running costs. Lamb fleece routinely sells for $25/lb raw, so that is $75.  Ewe fleece is more like $20/lb raw, which is $80 and covers running costs.  There’s just the skirting time, which is not much time at all.  So if the ewe twins, the fleeces can just about be tossed in a sack and sold to cover the running costs.

If the ewe has only one lamb, turning that fleece into lamb’s roving would get the same $75 (lamb roving is softer and gets closer to $50/lb), but would take an hour or so of carding labor.  And you could still sell the ewe’s fleece raw with no extra labor. So a young ewe that doesn’t twin in her first breeding could still produce enough fleece to cover her running costs with a relatively modest increase in labor.

We only have six sheep and we expect at least one ewe to single, so we are expecting to do some processing of wool this year along with our journey into the world of wool selling.  We have to make 12-14 fleece sales and plan for about a day’s labor carding and then we have from April to December to make those sales happen.

I was going to get into meat sales with the lambs, but I don’t think we’re going to sell more than a couple for meat this year.  With so few animals, we are likely to keep the lambs back to grow the flock.  We’re nervous about lambing, it’s already next month and the next few weeks will be vaccinating and putting down more straw in the barn.

The ewes seem to be doing well on the daily mineral and are less pale.  So here’s hoping they bear some nice healthy lambs to shear at all.