This blog will seem silly to many. How can she be so happy, they’ll ask, for a bunch of little plastic bits? But I am. You cannot believe how happy I was to receive hundreds of small plastic pins in the mail the other day! The package was the result of literally years of searching.
Our marking harnesses, which allow rams to mark the ewes during breeding, each have a crayon fastened with two small plastic pins — one on each side. The pins can be a little frustrating to work with, since they are small and flat-headed. It isn’t uncommon to lose one in the grass when changing the crayon or to accidentally cut off the head of the pin in the process of removal — should we have too heavy a hand with the pocket knife. As a result, we began to keep the used pins that were in good condition to reuse as replacements in these situations. With two new pins for every NetTex crayon we used and a new crayon for each ram every week or so, our stash of pins grew rapidly. I paid little attention to how many we had and how many we lost — there were plenty to work with.
Each crayon also came with a metal split pin as an option to secure the crayon. The pin went into a hole on one side of the crayon mount, through the underside of the crayon, and out the other side of the mount. The user then used a tool to fold back the metal ends of the split pin to secure it in place. After only a couple of trials, we decided against this mounting option for two reasons: I found that folding the ends back was hard for me to manage, and the folded metal ends caught and tore our ewes’ coats during marking. Anything that creates more coat repairs is quickly replaced by a more efficient system — hence our focus on those small plastic pins, despite their drawbacks.
After only two or three years of using the plastic pins, we noticed that more and more of the new crayons were coming with only the metal split pin — they were no longer equipped with both options. Since we still had a number of plastic pins on hand from past years, I didn’t worry about it too much. We saved the new pins that came with the crayons and continued to use the others that we had saved over the years. This worked well for a while, but our inventory of the little pins grew very slowly.
Eventually, NetTex completely stopped sending the little black pins with the crayons and switched over to the metal split pin. As a result, our stash of pins dwindled, and I became a bit concerned. I started looking for a source to replace what we lost each year, but I had little luck. At every sheep and wool show, I would ask the vendors if they knew of a source, and much of my spare time was spent cruising the internet, trying various search words that might lead to a company that made or could make this type of pin. A few years ago, I got a small plastic bag of used pins from the Mid-States Wool Growers booth at the Iowa State Fair. I had asked them about the plastic pins the year before, and when I arrived to place my annual order for marking crayons, they had the bag of pins waiting for me! It really was a wonderful surprise!
Yet the supply didn’t last. Not only did we lose the pins occasionally, but I tend to share our bounty with others. When other breeders complained that the metal split pin were tearing their coats, I’d offer them a precious small pile of the plastic pins. As our inventory dwindled, the smaller the amount I was able to share — although everyone who asked about a source for the pins got some from us. During this breeding season, I had only enough in our inventory to hold this year’s crayons in place. Losing even one of those precious plastic pins would have meant either less breeding groups or torn coats. I had to do something!
I once again scoured the internet for a source. I contacted all kinds of companies: those that manufactured small metal stubs, plastic pins, or any type of attachment mechanism — but none could help me find what I was looking for. Then on a whim, I decided to email NetTex, the manufacturer of the crayons — surely they could direct me to the manufacturer of the pins! I mentioned I was a longtime user of their crayons and explained my situation. I then asked where I could buy 50-100 or more of the pins for myself and for other people who were contacting me about the same problem. I had no idea whether I even sent that email to the right department, but I explained my desperation — one lost pin would mean one less harness I was willing to use on my ewes!
Surprisingly, I got an email later the same day from Chris King, NetTex/Rumenco Export Manager, telling me they had located a number of pins at their factory and that they were willing to send them to me as a long and faithful customer! I had almost forgotten about it until about a week ago when a small package arrived from the UK. I opened it to find what looked like hundreds of plastic pins! What a bounty!
For all of you who would like to use the black pins rather than the metal split pin that comes with the crayons, just email me privately and send your address. Tell me how many breeding groups you typically run each year, and I’ll send you what I can — hopefully enough to last you at least a few years. Thank you, NetTex!