If wool shrinks when you wash it, why don't sheep get smaller when it rains?
This question was posed by one of our younger holiday visitors recently! Well, we’ll try to answer Ben’s question as well as we can, being sheep farmers rather than sheep scientists!
Firstly, Ben, you need to ask Mum and Dad to turn the heat down on their washing machine! If we popped one of our sheep into a sauna with the heat turned up to max we might see a smaller, sadder animal emerge! Jumpers should not shrink if the water heat is turned down.
Sheep also have a natural oily covering on their wool, called Lanolin. This keeps them nice and dry, so when you’re looking out of one of our cottage windows at the sheep in the fields on a soggy, rainy day you don’t need to feel sorry for them when you are snug and warm with the wood burner blazing and a cup of hot chocolate in your hands. You can be assured that they don’t even feel wet, as that thick layer of lanolin covered wool is protecting them from the damp and insulating them to keep them warm.
Down on Tregolls Farm in Cornwall, Farmer Lester is busy this month making sure all our sheep are healthy and happy. Another question was asked in the past which is very relevant to the work Lester is doing at the moment:
Why did you shave that poor sheep’s bottom?
Be assured it’s not a fashion statement! This is a job Farmer Lester does at this time of year, so look out for some embarrassed looking sheep in the fields! It’s called Tailing and is done to keep those sensitive areas clean and cool. If you compare it to wearing a pair of thick, lined trousers day-in, day-out, and imagine how hot, sweaty and grubby you would feel after a while, that’s how our poor sheep would feel! In keeping them clean and cool we can also make sure they don’t get any nasty infections which could make them sick.
Why do horses need shoes but sheep don’t?
Horses do some unusual things which they naturally wouldn’t do. If there weren’t people riding them, for instance you wouldn’t see a wild horse choosing to spend his time galloping up concrete roads. That sort of flooring wears the horse’s hooves down quickly, so the blacksmith covers their hooves to protect them. Sheep on the other hand never do anything they don’t feel like doing! They stay mainly in our green, grassy fields which creates the opposite problem! We have to trim their hooves, like you would trim your growing toe and finger nails. About this time of year Farmer Lester will be treating our ladies with a lovely pedicure! Some of them seem to rather enjoy the attention, but most are not so keen, but afterwards they definitely have a spring in their step, so we think they like the results!
Please feel free to email Marilyn and Lester to ask your farming question if you have one, or go to our Facebook page and ask us there. You may also like to see our On the Farm page to see what our visitors get up to on their holidays with us.