Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Some sheep are so Rooed

If you follow my blog, you see that I mention the term roo, rooing or rooed quite a bit.  Some of you are probably wondering, "What on earth is she talking about?"  and  "Has she finally lost her last marble?"
The answer to the first question is easy.... 

Rooing is the process of removing the fleece from the sheep by hand plucking the wool.  Many Shetland sheep retain a complete or partial tendency to shed the current year’s fleece growth in late spring or early summer. At the point where the fibre diameter becomes thinner and weaker, the fleece breaks quite easily.  It does not hurt the sheep when the weakened fibres are plucked or rooed by hand.
Breeders of Shetlands will notice that certain sheep and sometimes certain family lines have a greater tendency to shed than others.   At one end of the spectrum there are Shetlands that shed their fleece so readily that it will be lost to the pasture and bird nests unless the shepherd quickly and roos or clips the sheep as soon as signs of shedding  (loose tufts of wool poking out of the fleece) appear. 
Others will partially shed, leaving portions of the fleece that must be removed by clipping.  If you wait, those parts of the fleece may shed over a period of weeks. At the other end of the continuum, some Shetlands show no tendency to shed at all and must be hand clipped or sheared.
An advantage to rooing a fleece is that the previous year’s growth is removed at exactly the right point leaving the next year’s growth rising cleanly on the sheep.  Also there is no loss in staple length or creation of short fibres as can happen when the sheep is sheared above or below the rising new fleece.   (known as "the rise")

Here are some before, during and after photos of Anais that I took a couple weeks ago.  I use a large bag for the main fleece (body, shoulders back, etc. and 2 smaller bags for the neck and britch wool.  The new stand that my hubby and I built is the perfect height for me and my size of sheep, I simply love this stand.  It's got a removable sides, holders on all 4 sides, plus a hoop on a pipe that can be moved anywhere on the stand.  And it's aluminum, so it weights about 15 lbs.  It's been a huge back saver for me this year. 

Anais had already lost a good portion of her neck wool....sigh, so here we are just getting started. 

You can see from this photo that I am just starting to get the wool on her back to peel off nicely.  She is at the perfect point in "the rise" for removal of the fleece.  She has nice new growth coming in and will not be exposed to sun and cold when the old growth is removed.  If I get an area that is hard to pluck, I simply use the hand shears, the same thing I do if I get a sheep that doesn't roo, but I haven't had that much this year. 
All done!!!! And while I've got her up there, I trimmed her hooves and checked her udder, mouth etc.  She's cool, happy and I have VM free fleece in a bag, it's all skirted as I roo and ready for washing and processing.  No additional steps before it's processed.  I throw all the dung tags, yucky belly wool and any matted sections on the floor, so the only fleece that goes in the bags are clean and skirted.  And since there are no cut ends, it's softer than sheared fleece and there are zero, yep, zero 2nd cuts!!!  
Rooing is a lot of work, but I find it is very satisfying to be able to have this intimate and up close contact with my sheep and the wool they provide to me.  I can tell you exactly how nice (or not so nice) the wool is from every part of the sheep I roo, simply because I've handled every piece of it.   I also find that I will imagine in my mind what a certain sheeps' wool will be good for as I'm rooing them.   If nothing else, rooing is a big learning experience for me as I'm able to attach the feel of the fleece with the micron results I review for each of the sheep in my flock.   
There's also a video of our rooing on Youtube from last year's Shepherd's Harvest rooing demo. 


  1. I remember when I was a child of my dad raising sheep one year. I remember them using clippers to shear them. I especially remember making a pet out of one and my dad said that we didn't get to do it again. I loved the farm and would love to live in the country again. They say that you can move a country girl to the city, but she never gives up her country roots. Have a wonderful day. Hugs and Prayers from Your Missouri Friend.

    1. Thanks Shirley....have a wonderful day yourself!


He who angers you, controls you.

And my favorite.......You can't control what others say or do, but you can control your reaction.

Mike and I

Mike and I
Mike and I at Nick and Emily's wedding

Raised beds & chickens coops

Raised beds & chickens coops
Can't wait for this stuff to actually be food....