McKinley fleece update

On June 15th and 20th, I wrote about our adult ewe, McKinley, who had lost a pretty big section of wool on her rump due to an unknown cause. I speculated at the time that it seemed to have been some chemical burn based on the scabbing and scarring that seemed to be present, and wondered whether her lovely wool would come back in over that area.

It takes wool about six weeks for wool to begin to come in after this type of fleece loss. Sheep can lose wool for a variety of reasons, but most commonly severe illness and stress. When this occurs, the loss is generally widespread and covers most or all of the body. This did not seem to be the case this time with McKinley – her wool loss was limited to a very specific area towards the back of her coat, most likely because this specific area was injured by whatever substance came in contact with the wool in this area.

McKinley's bald area is no longer bald! Notice how the wool is shorter and darker - a sign of injury to that area.

McKinley’s bald area is no longer bald! Notice how the wool is shorter and darker – a sign of injury to that area.

As we moved our sheep into their breeding groups this past weekend, we took the time to look each of them over, weighing them and taking care of any specific needs that they may have had. In McKinley’s case, I wanted to take a look at that injured area. Enough time had passed that if the wool was going to come back in, I knew we should have seen it by then – and with the coat that she had been wearing, there was no way we could see what was happening underneath. All of us were eager to find out how things were progressing with her, so once caught, the first thing we did was to pull off the back end of her coat to see whether the wool had begun to fill in or whether she was still bald over that area.

McKinley's wool is normally a pale silver, but the scarred area is coming in quite a bit darker.

A close-up of McKinley’s wool over the injury – notice how it breaks up into small staples and has tiny curled tips – both traits are typical of her fleece type.

Thankfully, McKinley’s fleece is coming back in over the entire injury! Although the wool is very similar in texture to the wool that covers the rest of her body, it is darker than the rest of her wool – which is not unusual in wool that covers an injury or scar tissue. When we shear her in January, I will likely skirt this area off, since it will be much shorter than the rest of her fleece. After shearing, however, it should once again grow normally, albeit a bit darker – a nice bit of contrast to her typically silvery fleece!

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