As it gets colder, many of us will pull out a woolly jumper to keep warm, but what of the original ‘wearer’ of that wool. The sheep.
When the weather gets warmer, the wool on a sheep grows quickly and this is called ‘the rise’.
Wool insulates so the sheep are warm in winter and cool in summer but they need clipped as the wool will begin to fall out itself and can become tangled in the legs of the sheep or look unkempt.
Shearing time is a good chance to check the sheep to see that it is healthy.
The shearing can be done either by hand clippers which look like huge scissors or by electronic shears. The traditional method is hand clipping which this man is using. It is much slower than the electric ones but just as good and handy if there are only a few sheep to clip.
The sheep are held between the knees of the shearer and special suede shoes are worn to grip the surface of the area which becomes very slippery from the grease in the wool.
A good shearer can clip a sheep in about a minute. They have to work very fast if there are a flock of hundreds of sheep but it is very hard work. Shearing competitions are part of our culture here in the Highlands and a fast shearer can win a lot of work on the strength of a competition as all the farmers are looking out for good shearers.
The sheep feel much more comfortable once they have been shorn and their fleece will soon grow again for winter.
Once the sheep has been shorn, the wool handler lifts the fleece, still warm from the sheep and wraps it in a special way then neatly puts the bundle in a giant woolsack.
The handler has to climb inside the giant woolsack and trample the wool as tightly as possible then once the woolsack is full, it is sewn up with a huge needle, ready for collection by the Wool board.
The wool will then go on to be washed, spun, made into carpets, insulation or knitted into warm jumpers for winter.
Can you think of any other uses for wool?