- Author: Robert J Keiffer
Most breeds of sheep grow their body hair ... normally referred to as wool ... continuously, so typical management of a sheep flock calls for shearing them at least once per year. An average adult sheep in the United Sates produces 7.3 lbs. of wool annually. Some sheep producers prefer to shear their sheep prior to lambing, but at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center this is NOT done to allow the sheep to retain their wool for winter warmth. Also, for HREC, late spring/early summer shearing makes more sense to prepare the sheep for warm weather and also reduce the risk of "fly-strike".
So, an alternative management scheme is to "Tag" the ewes just prior to lambing. This is a quick modification to full shearing ... where only the wool around the vulva area and udder is removed. In some sheep-producing regions of the world this technique is called Crotching or Crutching. The removal of wool from the crutch area of the pregnant ewe keeps the area dry, reduces the risk of fly-strike, and allows cleaner and easier access to the udder by the soon-to-arrive lambs.
Here you see HREC's contracted shearer "tagging" a ewe on the shearing platform in HREC's main lambing barn.