6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Hampshire Life CLICK HERE

Adam Henson, from the BBC's Countryfile, on the art of shearing

10:21 30 May 2012

Adam Henson, from the BBC

Adam Henson, from the BBC's Countryfile, on the art of shearing

A year ago, no one had heard of the Schmallenberg Virus.This horrible, insect borne disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock first emerged in northern Europe in 2011.

A year ago, no one had heard of the Schmallenberg Virus.This horrible, insect borne disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock first emerged in northern Europe in 2011.



By this spring, hundreds of British farms had been affected and the issue was on the radio, TV and in print. Despite the media debate, no one can say for certain what effect the virus will have in the months to come. But if anything positive can be salvaged from the outbreak its that the general publics appreciation and understanding of sheep farming has increased. That applies to shearing almost as much as it did to lambing earlier in the year. On my farm in the Cotswolds, well soon be shearing our flock of 900 sheep but its not necessarily the case everywhere. Shearing follows the weather, so it takes place earlier in Devon and Cornwall than it does in the Midlands, who are then ahead of Northumbria and Scotland.



The majority of commercial work is done by gangs of experienced shearers who travel across the country working from place to place. Most of them are Australians and New Zealanders who seem to have a natural aptitude for this repetitive, back-breaking work and I suppose the large sums of money they can earn in the UK is a bit of a draw too. These hard-working young men (and the occasional woman) herd the sheep into handling pens with the aim of getting the entire fleece off each sheep in one piece so that it can be rolled and bagged intact. A top notch shearer can get through up to 300 animals in a day, driven on by the need for the gang to complete a whole flock before nightfall so they can move on to their next farm. By contrast, exhibition shearing is a much slower process. Visitors to agricultural shows, country fairs and farm parks want to see what happens and hear about the art of shearing. So the work is staggered with just a few sheep sheared daily and time for a lot more conversation than you would expect from the Aussies! The white fleeces are sold to the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) which runs a centralised system to help get the best possible profit.



Most of our coloured wool is bought by spinners and weavers at a premium due to the lovely natural shades. Nationally, lots of coloured wool still goes to the BWMB albeit at a lower price due to the fact that it cant be dyed. And the great news is that, for the first time in years, the price the farmer gets for his wool is more than the cost of having it shorn in the first place. Happy days.




Living in the clouds


The Woolly Shepherd, which was featured on Countryfile this spring, has developed a competitive range of Natural Acoustics. They are made from wool that is often wasted as it is not valuable enough to ship and store. They hang like fluffy clouds in dining areas and help to cut down clatter and echo.

0 comments

More from Out & About

Thu, 17:14

Keep everyone in the family entertained this Easter break with our list of 50 eggcellent adventures to enjoy across Hampshire

Read more
Monday, March 9, 2015
Getty Images/iStockphoto

In 2015, the Rugby World Cup heads to England and Wales. Here’s where you can take in some Hampshire rugby in the run-up to the big tournament.

Read more
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Less than two miles from central Portsmouth, the streets and esplanades of Southsea have a cool retro vibe. Packed with independent shops and eateries, a growing number of boutique B&Bs means it’s a seaside resort not just for day-trippers

Read more
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Hoverflies are key pollinators

With the county’s pollen loving species in decline, Kizzie Henderson from the Wildlife Trust explains how acting now can help to save our plants, flowers and most importantly, our crops for future generations to come

Read more
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Many of the houses are in smart rows of terraced or semi-detached

What’s so special about the Uplands Estate - a quiet cul-de-sac near Southampton Common? Resident Gordon Cooper shares the story

Read more
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Take a seat and admire the views of the River Hamble between Point 3 and 4 © Steve Davison

Our walk this month, a figure-of-eight stroll which can easily be split into two shorter walks if required, is based at historic Botley and follows parts of the Strawberry Trail - a 15-mile route that weaves its way through an area that was once well-known for the sweet, red fruits.

Read more
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Fleet Pond has gone through a majestic transformation - photo by Liza Toth

Just a few years ago much of the wildlife at Fleet Pond was under serious threat of disappearing forever. Now, thanks to a £250,000 restoration grant and a wave of community support, Hampshire’s largest freshwater lake has a clear future. Viv Micklefield looks at what’s been happening there since our last visit

Read more
Monday, February 16, 2015

Leave the car and chaos behind and escape to a land of endless views; the chance to mooch from orchard to brewery to vineyard; and finally crash out in a luxury yurt, with nothing but the star-littered skies for company

Read more

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP


Hampshire's trusted business finder
subscription ad

subscription ad