Monday, December 17, 2007

Why Do My Sheep Wear Jackets You Asked?

Several people have commented on or asked me to elaborate on why my sheep wear jackets. I mean aren't they warm enough with their natural wool blankets? The answer to the warmth question is yes they are definitely warm enough. The reason why they wear jacket is to keep their fleece free of vegetable matter. In the trade this is called VM. I had answered Jeff's query about this over at View From the Clouds but after further comments I decided to share this gem of knowledge with you guys in case you ever decide to raise sheep or become spinners yourselves (if you aren't doing this already). Coats are expensive and are in a constant state of repair, but it's worth it. Spinners happily pay a premium for clean wool free of hay and bits of food. I also will not spin a dirty fleece. All I had to do was experience a clean fleece once and I was hooked.

Don't the sheep grow out of their coats? Well technically the wool grows and so they outgrow their coats. Each sheep undergoes at least one, if not two coat size changes in a year. As soon as they wool is sheared off their backs they get their first coat of the season. As the year progresses the coats are changed as needed. This way the fleece is kept protected at all times. You see sheep have a tendency to eat their hay and grain over their neighbor's back thus depositing a significant amount of wet, gooey food (VM) onto their neighbor. A spinner would have to stop spinning and pick these bits of food out every so often which is annoying and slows down the process. One way I save on coats is by extending the size of the jacket by tying a large jacket at the back with baling twine thus decreasing the size. I often do this because I have to as I have run out of a particular size at that moment.

As soon as lambs are large enough, and if I am going to keep them, they get jackets. They generally acclimate themselves in a few minutes, while some don't even notice they are wearing them. Lamb's wool is some of the softest wool you will find so it pays to keep them in pristine condition.

So there you have it. Why my sheep wear coats.