Monday, November 03, 2008

Why DO we shear sheep???

A day in our life--been wondering where we have been?? Yesterday was off to 'save lives' at the llama farm with Jenny and a group of wonderful caring people. We started out at 10 am and had the 22 llamas out and settled in at Jenny's by 230. What a day --a rodeo. If you look at the llama picture, you can see Jen's llamas checking out the newbies and the one with burrs and ears back is one we brought home to Jenny's- he is not so sure he likes his new place--he will learn, he could not be in a better one.

When we pulled in, the first 'person' I saw was this sad little sheep--she was SO sad looking and it made me cry. The humane officer asked the guy surrendering the animals if I could take the sheep too. He agreed and we brought her home last night too. She is a Hampshire sheep, old and skin and bones--and looks like she might be pregnant. Argh.

She has arthritis or prior injuries that have her walking on her knees, has never been sheared--thus the upcoming statement about why sheep should be sheared and not left to fend for themselves. I don't rant often so don't read further if you disagree. Because she has never been sheared, she has crawly bugs (eeew) and just feels awful--parts of her fleece are so matted/felted that she can't move to walk properly. Her feet have also not been trimmed so are curled under and making her feet hurt. No hoof diseases as such but surely painful.

This is the poor girl only 1/3 sheared--with scissors and a good dose of sheepy vicodan too. Ross held her while I trimmed her. It was two hours to just get this far. Ugh. We used scissors instead of clippers so we could try to leave an inch or so of the under coat on her--too close to cold weather now for that.

And this is why we chose to use scissors. She has several 'items' grown into her skin that will need to be carefully removed. This 'item' is located on the very top of her back and measures about 6 inches long. We have to keep a balm on it to soften it up so we don't tear the skin when it is removed. Sad huh? There are several more 'items' we have found as we snipped--and after two hours, Ross and I let her sleep--put her to bed and gave her fresh hay, water and a little handful of grain.

She will have a rough time ahead, mainly of being patient while we get her trimmed up, treated for her problems and she will get to eat LOTS. We hope we are wrong and that she is not pregnant, if so, the mamas give all they have to their babies. Not good for either one in the long run. This is our little newby all tucked in (notice standing on her knees again) and ready for us 'kooks' to leave her alone. We checked on her every couple hours in the night and she did sleep comfortably and when we fed her this morning, she was up and stamping her foot at us, wanting us to leave her alone--very sassy and that is a good sign that we like to see.

Now for the soapbox. There are many organizations that will tell a person that sheep should be left to fend for themselves and NEVER be sheared--because it is 'cruel'??? Imagine never washing or cutting your own hair for the number of years this sheep (probably 8 years old) has not been sheared. You can see the issues and she is lucky that the flies did not do more damage to what she already had through the summers. Sheep have been domesticated and are not able to be turned loose and not have basic care. Feet, shearing and FEED are critically important. Shearing is NOT cruel, it is a short, painless process that protects the sheep from parasites and the heat in the summer.

I will agree with them that 'factory farming' is a horrid place for any animal, however, there are lots of people out there that take GOOD, well GREAT care of their sheep (and large animals) and would never think of the things found at factory farms (who give us all a bad image).

That said, I wish the groups would get on the boat that would not only bring forward the bad in farming, but also work and put those millions into programs that could improve the lives of animals too--and also publicize the people that DO good.

I am constantly amazed at the spirit of the animals on our farm, many who arrived in as poor shape as our latest, however badly they have been cared for, they still manage to carry hope and spirit--that just won't quit, almost never even as bad as things might be. How do they DO that? We hope that spirit will carry our new little sheep and let her heal--she will be able to be a pal to our oldest sheep Kelly as soon as we know her bug issues are cleared up. For now she will bunk in a stall in the llama barn. She is comfy, loved, cared for now and I hope she can put up with us! This is the ugly side of rescue work that people often are not aware of- but we love what we do here--it is our life and we adore the creatures we call family.

Thank you for listening--we will be updating the site today in between sheep clipping so keep an eye out.... off to visit the new girl and hug my other sheep.... they will help me get rid of the snarkies--promise!


Jules said...

What an affecting story. Thanks for sharing it and for giving us a glimpse of your side of things.
Does she have a name yet? Perhaps you could call her "Spirit"--I hope she continues to have it.

GRAHAM said...

You seem a lovely caring lady.Well done for your dedicated service to sheep. I've stumbled onto your site after lookinng into the issue of whether shearing is cruel or good for sheep. It seems the latter. Regards, Graham (Lincolnshire, England)

Elaine said...

Am writing my own blog now in response to vegans' insistence that wool use is unethical and that shearing, by definition, hurts sheep. Found this by googling question, "Do sheep NEED to be sheared?" Thanks for sharing your story!