From San Angelo I drove up to Abilene to get our first working Livestock dog. Rocket is an 8 month old Australian Kelpie. Rocket is very fast (thus her name), but very raw. She’s a puppy, so she’s easily distracted. She is completely untrained — which is my way of adding that she’s not a shepherd yet; more like an apprentice. In any case, she’s very cute and adds lots of adventure to each day on the farm.
Raphaela is attending the sheep shearing clinic in San Angelo, Texas, put on by the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center. Although most attendees are from various parts of Texas, there are a few out-of-staters and is from South Africa. Raphaela is getting experience on the ethical and humane practice of shearing on the latest equipment.
Humane treatment begins with staying calm with the sheep from start to finish. The shearer tries to keep the sheep comfortable during the process, and cause as little harm to the sheep as possible. A really comfortable sheep will relax completely in the arms of the shearer. The technical goal of the shearer is to obtain the fleece all in one piece in just 41 passes (strokes). High quality equipment and sharp blades ensures that the cuts are smooth and don’t yank at the wool. Shearers are taught to avoid skin tags and wrinkles that might get cut. It’s not that hard to do it right. The sheep walks away happy and clean, and ready for lambing!
Cotton is just two weeks old and seems to have doubled her weight since birth. We obtained her mother, Ash, from another farmer, who must have had a more hands-off approach to his herd because both she and Sweetgum (who came from the same farm) are skittish and won’t allow themselves to be touched.
Cotton doesn’t look like she’ll take after her momma. She comes up to us freely, even eagerly at times. She tries to play with the dogs and shows no fear or distrust of humans. And why should she? We shower her with plenty of love.
1 year old painted desert ram