As many of you know, we sheared our ewe flock on Saturday, January 24th. This particular shearing is a major undertaking here at Peeper Hollow Farm, harvesting fiber that’s been growing for a whole year, preparing it for sale, and then making it available to our customers around the world. I know that there is no way that you, out there, can really understand what it looks like from here unless I give you a peek, so I hope that this blog gives you some insight into the scope of the project of shearing—by the numbers.
On January 24th, we lined up 2 shearers and 16 volunteers to shear 47 ewes. In about 4 1/2 hours, our shearers harvested a total of 437 pounds of wool from our girls: Romney fiber, 226.6 pounds; Romeldale/CVM fiber, 210.4 lbs.
Here are some other statistics:
- Heaviest Romney fleece (adult): 17.0 lbs.
- Lightest Romney fleece (adult): 5.5 lbs.
- Average Romney fleece (adult): 14.2 lbs.
- Heaviest Romeldale/CVM fleece (adult): 11.9 lbs.
- Lightest Romeldale/CVM fleece (adult): 5.8 lbs.
- Average Romeldale/CVM fleece (adult): 11.07 lbs.
- Heaviest Romney fleece (hogget – nearly a yearling): 10.1 lbs.
- Lightest Romney fleece (hogget): 7.4 lbs.
- Average Romney fleece (hogget): 8.9 lbs.
- Heaviest Romeldale/CVM fleece (hogget): 8.1 lb.
- Lightest Romeldale/CVM fleece (hogget): 5.1 lb
- Average Romeldale/CVM fleece (hogget): 6.6 lbs.
Once the wool arrives in the house, it literally takes over my dining room—the room I always use to skirt the fleeces. As in past years, the bundled fleeces lined the walls of the room, with just enough space around the dining room table to move as I skirt the fleece. Each wall held one group of fleeces—white Romeldale, white Romney, colored Romeldale/CVM, and colored Romney—and that is the order in which I skirt them.
When I skirt, I divide the wool from each ewe into three categories: (1) trash (belly wool, manure tags, and second cuts—the latter are short bits produced during shearing) and hairy sections (from the legs), (2) good wool that is less than prime (lays outside the cover of the coat), and (3) prime fleece. Every year I figure out how much clean fiber each ewe has produced—the total of the latter two categories—and what percentage of her entire clip is “clean wool.” This year, our adult Romneys averaged a clean wool yield of 69.5% and the adult Romeldales averaged 80.6%. The hogget fleeces were similar: 60.9% for the Romneys and 78.7% for the Romeldales. You might wonder why the Romeldales average a higher percentage than the Romneys—or why the adults average a higher percentage than their younger flockmates—and the reasons are the same. The more open the wool, the more contaminants can get into the wool, creating a lower yield. Adult ewes generally have a denser fleece than their younger flockmates (creating that higher yield), and Romeldales generally have a less open fleece than Romneys—resulting in the differences you see in the numbers.
It took me 2 weeks to skirt all of the fleeces, document each fleece both pictorially and numerically in my computer records, and then wash all 47 bed sheets that once held the wool. When we posted our fleeces to our customers last Thursday afternoon, we had 37 fleeces to sell (and we split five of them down the topline for a total of 42 bags of wool to sell), coming to nearly 80 pounds of prime Romney fiber and nearly 90 pounds of prime Romeldale/CVM. The fleeces sold out within 16 hours. During that time, I fielded 250 emails and got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. On Friday morning, I invoiced 30 different customers who had purchased fleeces from us, and by 24 hours later, 27 had paid us online.
Rick and I spent most of Saturday boxing fleeces for shipment and loading those boxes into the pickup truck—never realizing until we were finished that Monday was President’s Day and we wouldn’t be able to ship until Tuesday! Regardless, we finished boxing fleeces just in time. Our first lambs arrived early Sunday morning. Thankfully the fleece work was behind us, and our attention could now turn towards our quickly expanding flock!
[NOTE: To view photos and names of our new flock members, take a look at our new page: 2015’s Lambs.]