Friday, November 30, 2012

And then there were sheep…

So, there we are, we’ve got the shed nicely set up for alpacas, we’ve got a workflow that, while not perfect, is getting better and we’re well past the halfway mark.

Then we get a call – “Is it OK to shear 400 merinos in your shed next week?”

Seems that there has been a long-standing arrangement with the previous owner where they rented out the shed to a local sheep farmer.

OK, not too much of a problem and with the bills we’re getting just to get the plumbing working, every dollar is welcome.

So.. out comes the table again. Let me pause here a moment gentle reader to talk about the space under the shed where I have to go to take out the bolts…

Like all shearing sheds, it’s built on legs with a crawl space underneath. A crawl space filled with  20 years of sheep …., at least half of South Australia’s venomous spider population, a possum and a snake or two (I’ve not met one under there yet – but they’re there, I’m sure that they’re there). Let’s put it this way, it’s not my happy place.

Anyway it’s done and we have sheep shearing going on


There is a plus side. In one corner of the shed there is an old (read very old) wool press. It looks lethal and would certainly like nothing more than to chomp down one or two of my fingers. I’d assumed that it was not serviceable and only really fit for scrap but, apparently they use it every year and, while undoubtedly something that would make a safety inspector need to go and lay down in darkened room, it still works perfectly. So, part of the charge for the use of the shed is a quick course in how the thing works.

That happens tomorrow. If I have any fingers left, I’ll tell you about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Settling in and shearing

One of the great things about the new place is that it has a shearing shed. For the last 5 years we’ve been shearing in the open or under canvas.

Of course, nothing is simple so one of the first challenges is to convert the existing two-stand sheep operation for alpacas


We’d have liked to have used the existing shearing plant, but we’ll save that for next year – rigid bar fittings may be fine for sheep but are no good for ‘pacas. So this year we’re sticking to our electric handpieces.

Table bolted to the floor and ready to go

Come the first morning for shearing and another great step forward – runways. We’ve never had proper runways before, we’ve always had to lead the animals into pens a few at a time or use the old maternity paddock with its catching area. Things are now on a much bigger scale with the main girl’s paddock nearly a kilometre away. Possibly taking photos while riding the quad is not something to recommend…

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They soon learn what the runways are for..

I’d like to be able to say that we got through them all on the first weekend but there was a lot to learn with the new setup and we barely averaged 4 per hour in the first session, but we’re getting there.

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Having friends to help makes a big difference – so does a well stocked drinks fridge

35 degrees wasn’t big help either, but we’re most of the way through now.