Prepare well when shearing small livestock in winter

7 June 2024

Many wool and mohair farmers prefer to shear in winter as it yields higher quality wool. However, this comes with risks when cold fronts occur, especially when it is simultaneously cold, wet and windy.

Farmers in the Middelburg district ensured their lambs were safe and their animals had adequate shelter and food before the cold weather arrived this past weekend. Such preparations will also be necessary in the coming winter, with farmers needing to monitor weather forecasts regularly for systems that can develop quickly, like the weekend’s, warns Johan van den Berg, an independent agricultural meteorologist.

Many wool and mohair farmers prefer to shear in winter because it is important for wool quality. The fibre develops a weak spot due to the cold and the poorer grazing. “Wool’s breaking strength is weakest in winter growth, and if you shear in summer that weak spot is in the middle of the fibre, resulting in poorer quality and lower prices,” says Ven den Berg.

“The current very cold and wet conditions again highlight how important it is to schedule shearing teams at the right times and make the numerous other logistical arrangements.

Van den Berg says that although low temperatures can be risky, the most dangerous times are when it is wet, windy and cold. 

“Currently, it seems that from mid-June to mid-July there will be relatively little rain over areas where wool sheep and Angora goats are farmed, such as the Eastern Cape, southern Free State and eastern parts of Mpumalanga. There is a chance of light rain around 20 and 21 June that should be monitored.”

Cold conditions with rain and snow could occur in the second part of July and the first part of August. “With little rain usually occurring in spring during La Niña seasons, farmers can consider shearing in September, although it may already be a bit late by then.

“When shearing, it is important to take adequate precautions for shelter, preferably near homesteads or in easily accessible camps, with nutritious and sufficient food, as well as enough labour so that all the work can be done as quickly as possible.”

share this