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Is That a Coat on Your Sheep?

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Chloe snuggles in the snow.

“Is That a Jacket?”

“Yep, our sheep wear coats all winter long.”

It is really quite simple-my decision to coat my Romney sheep comes from a business standpoint. I find it more cost effective to coat  my sheep. I learned a long time ago that my yarn quality and quantity is directly related to the quality of wool which I send to the mill in the spring. If I send the mill wool full of hay and vegetation matter, then the yarn I get back will have bits of stalks, and weed seeds in it.

A new shipment of yarn from the mill.

While an occasional piece of hay makes little difference, a skein of yarn full of vegetation, makes for unpleasant knitting. After shearing our sheep, I carefully “skirt” each fleece, pulling away the wool that is dirty and contaminated with bits of chaff and stalks. What is left on my skirting table, is premium wool, free of manure and hay. The more wool I have to remove from each fleece, the less yarn I will have in the end, and that affects my bottom line dollar. Our farm focuses on wool production, so we need every bit of wool off of our sheep for yarn.

Alaska eats with the sheep.

Many shepherds manage wool contamination by proper feeding systems. I too have utilized feeding systems which mimic grazing, thus reducing the amount of hay which gets into fleeces. However, I still find it necessary to coat our sheep. Our Vermont farm sits high upon an open mountain top where the winds howl all winter long. Regardless of how careful I may be in feeding and loading our hay feeders, the wind has its way, and will inevitably carry the hay across the backs of the ewes. Our sheep also have a friend which dines with them often. This friend, our guard llama, will take a mouthful of hay, lift her head, and chew, all the while, dropping bits of hay upon the sheep next to her.

So you see, the coats our sheep wear, are not for warmth or to make a fashion statement, rather they simply protect their fleece from flying bits of hay, chaff, and weed seeds. The next time you drive by the farm, take a look, and you will see coats on all the sheep, and now you will know why.

Sheep wear coat to protect their fleeces from hay contamination.



One Response

  1. Tombstone Livestock

    That snow looks so cold.