Shearing before Lambing - How close can you go?

Should you shear sheep in cold winter temperatures (say, below -10 C at night)

  • Yes, they can handle it, even close to lambing

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shepherdO

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So my 8 ewes are due starting the 24th, and every few days thereafter for about 3 weeks. I've pondered having them shorn prior to lambing, but we were hit with a cold spell (-20 Celsius and some wind) about 3 weeks ago, so that answered the question for me.

However, it's beginning to let up now, and the forecast for the next week has it averaging -5 during the day, and -14 at night. The week following has it a couple degrees warmer, but not much.

My question(s):
1) how cold is too cold for shearing sheep?
2) how close would you get to lambing and still shear? Ie, I know the process will be stressful for the sheep, and I don't want to send anybody into labour.

My ewes have a 3-sided shelter all the time (they tend to sleep outside under a tree and wake up with snow blankets on them :), but I will be moving the 'close 'uns' to a smaller 3.5 sided shed, and the imminent ewes will be in an enclosed lambing shed with heat lamp, etc.

Thoughts?
 

OneFineAcre

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I don't have sheep, but I wouldn't sheer them all over until it is warm.
I clip my goats udder and around their back legs prior to kidding where blood and birth fluids would get.
 

shepherdO

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Uggh... I tried crutching them but it was super hard... I'm hoping my minimalist job was satisfactory, but I sure was envious of electric clippers while I was doing it, that's for sure...!
 

misfitmorgan

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Shearing this close to lambing and with those temps that would be very very tough on the sheep. You want to shear when temps are above freezing over night which looks like the end of march at the earliest for you. Normally we won't shear our sheep or anyone elses until April at the earliest.

Shearing sheep in very cold weather can actually put them so far into shock/hypothermia that they drop dead.

https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/animal-welfare/hypothermia-sheep

This is a good article on why the idea of full shearing them now is a horrible one and asking for trouble. You can crutch them if you are concerned, yes i know it is a pain esp without electric shears.

I will say i have seen sheep birth and mother lambs with 2-3yrs of wool growth without any issue. We currently have bred ewes thay were given to us a few months ago that havn't been sheared in 2yrs, they will be long sheared in April then short sheared in May depending on temps. Going from all that wool to none in less then an hour is to much for a lot of sheep even in 2C low/12C high weather.
 

Baymule

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Shearing this close to lambing and with those temps that would be very very tough on the sheep. You want to shear when temps are above freezing over night which looks like the end of march at the earliest for you. Normally we won't shear our sheep or anyone elses until April at the earliest.

Shearing sheep in very cold weather can actually put them so far into shock/hypothermia that they drop dead.

https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/animal-welfare/hypothermia-sheep

This is a good article on why the idea of full shearing them now is a horrible one and asking for trouble. You can crutch them if you are concerned, yes i know it is a pain esp without electric shears.

I will say i have seen sheep birth and mother lambs with 2-3yrs of wool growth without any issue. We currently have bred ewes thay were given to us a few months ago that havn't been sheared in 2yrs, they will be long sheared in April then short sheared in May depending on temps. Going from all that wool to none in less then an hour is to much for a lot of sheep even in 2C low/12C high weather.
That's a good article!
 

Ridgetop

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You are so close to lambing that I would only do crutching. Since you don't have an electric clipper, I assume you are using a standard hand shears, correct? I would just take off enough wool to make lambing less messy. If they have matted wool round the vulva, definitely trim it off. If you have extremely heavy wooled or long wooled breeds, trim slightly around the teats and udder so the lambs can find the teats. Are your ewes trained to get on the stanchion for hoof trimming? f so you can do your trimming there. If you have to wrestle the ewes around to trim or shear, it will be dangerous for them and the unborn lambs at this stage of their pregnancy.

They are due to lamb in another few days, so wait until they have lambed to shear when the weather has really changed to be warmer. Some people shear before lambing thinking it will encourage the ewes to seek shelter with their lambs when the weather is bad. It doesn't always work. Since your ewes are used to staying outside in the snow, they might decide to do it anyway and end up freezing. Also, you said that your lambing jugs are inside a closed barn with heat lamps. If you shear and put the ewes in a warm barn, they will be fine, but if you turn them back out into snowy weather after becoming accustomed to a warmer area that will be really bad. If you shear now, you will have to keep them inside until the weather turns consistently warm.

I always crutched my ewes before lambing since they lambed in January. I also used to shear them twice a year since I live in southern California and had no market for the wool. You are lambing in cold weather, so I would not take a chance on shearing now.
 

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