Why don't my Leicester Longwools look like this?
This stunning Leicester Longwool ewe is shown here courtesy of her breeder, Mr. Barry Enderby.
Mr. Enderby's "Delta Flock" is located in England. When I would see photographs of Leicester
Longwools that looked like this, I could not figure out how they were so clean! or the fleeces so long!
and the locks so beautifully defined! When my daughter would search the internet for photographs of
Leicester Longwools, she would often highlight and show me pictures like these shown here and ask
me "why don't our sheep look like this?" Since we are new to breeding Leicester Longwools and I
certainly had not seen any American flocks that had sheep that looked like this, I emailed Mr. Enderby
and asked him about this. Mr. Enderby kindly gave me permission to put these photographs of his
sheep here, and answered my questions:
"...the ewes which are shown in full wool in the pictures, were born in late January 2010 and
they will have been cliped for the first time in early August 2011. In other words, by the time
the photos have been taken, the ewes would be approximately 18 months old. (I like my
Leicesters to be very tall and broad across the brisket and back). They only grow this amount
of quality wool once in their lifetime and it has a staple length of 15-18 inches. I would be very
disappointed if it doesn't get to this length! Thereafter the staple length would reach about 10
inches per year. As you can imagine, the long stapled wool from a shearling ewe is in great
demand, because demand outstrips supply every year."
So,for the "average" shepherd, with "average" sheep on their farm, we would not see sheep like this.
The sheep are painstakingly tended to look like these photos for the show ring. Here in America, most
of the Leicester Longwools are shorn twice a year.This takes a large toll on the cleanliness of their
fleeces; we will have much hay and felting around the necks and front of the animal from eating hay out
of feeders. I've also found out that the beautiful, shiny, white sheep that one sees in the show ring -- in
particular fiber shows, are usually washed clean prior to showing!
Mr. Enderby goes on to say: "Starting at the beginning, all of my ewes are out grazing until a
couple of weeks before they are due to lamb, and apart from looking heavy they are usually
quite clean and tidy, but nothing special. After lambing inside, the ewes are immediately
injected against foot rot, as a precaution, wormed, and then turned out to grass with the lamb/s
about ten days old. By this time ewes that have been inside feeding on hay and concentrated
feed, are sometimes looking like moving hay stacks! I do not generally concern myself with this
at this stage, because I find that by July (shearing time) most of the hay from the neck area
especially, has been washed out by the wind and rain. This sytem only works for the ewes of
course, whilst the shearlings are a very different matter."
"I usually keep about 8 female lambs each season, for introduction and retention in my own
flock as shearlings. A select two or three of these will be kept purely for showing purposes in
that particular year. I do nothing to any of the 8 lambs retained other than feed them about 1
lb. each, every day from ten weeks old, until April when they will be about 15 months old. At
this time I wash them all gently, but thoroughly through my hands, with fresh water only, using
a garden hose and watering gun, paying particular attention to the belly and chest wool, which
when washed in this way tends to lose most of the felting or matting of the wool. I find that
done once at this time of year, the felting does not return before shearing at the end of July. I
should mention at this point that all of my sheep are halter trained and very calm and quite
enjoy a good shower on a warm spring day!"
"I do not separate the locks or fleece staples until 4 days before our first show which is the
first weekend in May. I have developed my own technique when doing this, because it used to
take me ten hours each sheep but thankfully I have now got the time down to a respectable four
hours, spread over a couple of days! ... the staples or locks are individually separated in a
vertical fashion going all over the sheep, and ensuring the belly wool is also pulled down at the
same time to give the long locks some depth"