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  • Writer's pictureWayne

Hairsheep or shedding sheep?

It’s been a big week for us on Caluka Farms. We processed every mob except for 107 ewes that are due to lamb in December (dry purple tags (born 2020) that we put the rams back in for a cycle in July this year).

We have moved every other sheep into new mobs. We now have mobs that we call:

Cleanskins (good shedding of the hair)

Mixed ewes (ewes that are not too woolly)

Ewes with lambs (~300 lambs about to be marked next week)

Ewes in-lamb (the small mob of 107 ewes mentioned above)

Weaners (lambs born this year - yellow tags)


Ideally the plan is to have one mob of cleanskins (to become are largest mob), one of mixed ewes, one for the weaners, and with an occasional mob of culls.

In the culls are 401 ewes we considered too woolly (see photos below) and were not in-lamb nor with a lamb. We also have 56 purple tag (born late 2020) that are too slow growing (their siblings have already had lambs and are back in with the rams now). These are all off to the market next week.

Speaking of rams, we have one elite ultrawhite ram we call Cassius that we gave sole access to about 50 cleanskin girls at the end of 2020 when he first arrived, and again earlier this year after they had lambed. His progeny are a class above our usual lambs and we want to spread his genetics as much as we can through our mobs. We now have 225 cleanskin ewes with about 100 of his ewe lambs born this year to join them in March.

We have just put all our rams in with the three mobs of ewes. The cleanskins have Cassius and three new rams with measured low worm egg counts. All the other rams are spread between the mixed ewes, and the ewes with lambs about to be marked.

This means the lambs will not be born as early as we had hoped, but will be due early April to early May 2022. Rams will be put back in with all these ewes in early May to produce another batch of lambs in early October 2022.

So to the topic I put on the heading of this blog. Should we call non-wool producing sheep, hairsheep, or shedding sheep?

It seems like the majority call them shedding sheep. I would tend to agree with the current mix of “shedding sheep” that we have in the country, but I prefer the name hairsheep because I think that is a more accurate term for where we are aiming.

A true hairsheep does not grow clumps of wool and then sheds it in spring. They just produce thicker masses of hair in winter and then thin those out in spring. These are true hairsheep because they do not produce wool at all, only hair.

I disagree that we need to grow a saddle of wool on their backs to protect them from sunlight. True hairsheep don’t need to, and most of these breeds come from very hot, sunny areas of the world. Some also in the tropics.

I also disagree with people preferring to have pure white hair sheep. I think we should get away from this white wool mentality. We are producing meat sheep and the outer colour means zip. If you want to pay more than me for a ram that has some colour in him, I’ll pay less for him every day - all else being equal with EBV’s, structure etc.

When we have Katahdin sheep in Australia, I am deliberately going to be choosing piebald and coloured sheep. Why? Because everyone then knows they are Katahdins and not white look-a-likes like everyone else seems to prefer.

Part of the 401 ewes we are selling because they are too woolly. Great frames and meat on most of them, but too woolly.

Our elite ram, Cassius (centre). He has just been added to the first tranche of the cleanskin ewes we've been drafting to be joined by him and three rams with measured tolerances to stomach worms.

We are at peak pasture growth right now. This is Charlie paddock just before the weaners were put into it 13th Nov 2021.

13th Nov 2021. Ryegrass in Charlie's paddock has not even flowered yet, even though we are now mid-November.

13th Nov 2021. The weaners have just been put into Charlies paddock.

13th Nov 2021. The weaners have just been put into Charlies paddock.

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