I get asked all the time, why do the sheep have coats on? The answer is simple, to keep them clean.
We start coating sheep as soon as they grow into the smallest ones we have, which is about 2 months of age. When they are grazing on grass with their mommas they don’t get much chaff and dirt in their wool but if we are feeding hay all the stray bits of vegetable matter gets in and on them and that sticks in the wool.
Once all the dirt and bits of hay and grain get into the wool it’s pretty tough to get out. It can be done, but not easily. Commercial mills use chemicals that dissolve the cellulose (plant fiber) without dissolving the wool but it does change the wool, making it less soft and supple. If you spend good money on a super fine wool you don’t want to ruin it by subjecting it to harsh cleaning methods.
An Ounce of Prevention
Woolley Nelson shows the difference between a clean coated fleece and the dingy dirty uncoated parts. While his neck and head don’t look that dirty, they certainly don’t look as bright as what’s under his coat.
Clean and white clear to the tips. While this fleece will still need to be washed to remove the lanolin and sweat there is no dirt or bits of hay in this fiber.
Each adult sheep will need 4 coats of progressive sizes throughout the year. Lambs will need more sizes as they are growing structurally as well as producing bulky wool. This increases the cost of producing wool but it also increases the value of that wool.
Unlike some farms we do not make our coats. We order them from Rocky Sheep Covers. Lucky for us our sheep are pretty gentle on their coats and with some minor repairs and periodic washing the coats are holding up well. Hopefully they can continue to keep our sheep clean for years to come.