Monday, November 02, 2009

Sheep jackets? Really??

Good Monday morning everyone! (is that really possible though??) Wanted to chat a little bit about sheep coats/jackets- and why we use them. I am not sure exactly why but there is a new thought out there that they are not 'humane' for the sheep to wear- that being said, here is what we believe!
Why do we jacket the sheep? Jackets protect the best part of a sheep's fleece, keeping out hay and debris. I like to use them most on our smaller sheep (Shetlands) and Angora goaties. The little sheep are 'victims' of their bigger pals, who despite my many pleas for clean, eat their salads over the top of the smaller sheep. We could seperate the little sheep but they would hate that- and so would I. This allows us to have a gorgeous fleece!
When do we put jackets on the sheep? When we start feeding hay, which is usually some time in November. The jackets are then removed on shearing day (April) for spring through fall. Since our sheep are on pasture, we feel there is no need for the jackets at that time.
Are the jackets too warm or uncomfortable for the sheep? Not in our opinion. We buy quality jackets that are made of a strong, light weight 'wind breaker' fabric- made to not rip (sheep LOVE to challenge me and try to rip the coats to shreds!) and designed to adapt itself to a growing fleece- with out matting the locks. We used canvas jackets in the past (pictured above) and found it was easy for the sheep to shred them- big game for them and too much sewing for me! ;0) The new jackets are light weight but do not keep the sheep completely dry-which we feel is not necessary. They slip over the sheep's head, have loops that slip over their hind legs and we monitor their fleece growth frequently to be sure they are fitted properly, if their wool outgrows the jacket, they move into the next size up. The jackets are easily laundered between uses and stay remarkably clean on the sheep too- thanks to the rain I think? ;0)
If you have ANY questions, I am always happy to answer them as things pertain to our own sheep, or look about and find the answers! We would not allow our sheep to do anything that would harm them, jeapordize their safety or just make their lives unhappy. Happy sheep is numero uno rule here, but since they gleefully do not heed my please for at least trying to be clean fleeced, I really prefer the jackets so we have enough sparkling clean fleece to share! Even though I DO tend to oink snort a lot of wool- I DO like to share too!
Long story short (short??Me you say??), we do not feel sheep jackets are inhumane for our fiber animals to wear. They truly don't mind.
Please remember, this is not a commentary about the only 'proper or improper' use for a sheep jacket- our theories do not always work for other shepherds. Their decisions are based on each flocks needs and if you have questions about their practices, just email them, I am sure they would be happy to chat. It is a big world out there with many many different situations and not all theories could possibly be a blanket answer for everyone. (tee hee)
Sophie and Louis are pictured above, modelling the canvas fleeces we used to use. I will get pictures of Becan in his new jacket soon and post it too. So far we only have enough jackets for a few sheep but hope to have them for all of the sheep by next winter. Giddyup! Thanks for listening and I hope I have answered questions you may have!
Cheerio for now! Smooches from the sheep!


Taos Sunflower said...

A friend in California has used them for decades. The fabric breathes and her sheep are quite content...not to mention how much it improves the quality of the fleece for spinners. So happy you're able to start doing this!

Joe Programmer Goes to the Farm said...

We sheared our three sheep last night and I started thinking about jackets. Where do you get yours?