Wool is a hot commodity in New Zealand. So of course, we saw lots of sheep on our travels! However, not all these stops were on the itinerary. On day four, we had an unexpected delay when our bus pulled off the side of the road and would not start again. What luck, right? In fact, the best luck came from our professor seeing a sheep farm shearing some ewes that we drove past about one mile down the road.
a) sit on the side of a highway for two hours awaiting someone from the bus company to help the situation?
b) take a little tramp (Kiwi term for hike) down the road to see if the sheep farmers will let us come on their farm?
Option b was selected!
After risking our lives walking down the highway that seemed to never end, 40 students arrived at this sheep farm. Now, think about if you were working and a large group of foreigners walked up to your farm or business and asked if they could get an inside view of your operation. Would you be caught off guard, uncertain of their intentions and possibly not let the group in?
That was the first thing that crossed my mind. In the U.S., the public perception of the agriculture industry is closed doored. We share reasons of biosecurity, animal welfare concerns or simply not having the time to show people around the farm because the farmer or owner is “too busy”.
None of the New Zealand farms we visited were like that. We were welcomed with open arms onto this sheep farm, where they had a hired crew shearing 3500 lambs. This was one of the best visits we had on the trip, purely because the farmers and workers weren’t “accommodating us with a prepared presentation”. They were doing their jobs, answering any questions we had and allowing us to take photos of their operation. So, that’s what I did.
|Ewes waiting in the paddock.|
|Sheep make a nice backdrop.|
|Shearing crews traveled around the country in the early spring-summer
months to shear sheep.
|During our visit, it took 50 seconds on average to shear a sheep!|
|The shearing shed was very lively with Ohio State students witnessing
the wool removal process.
|On the other side of the barn, ewes (adult females) were being crutched.
This means the wool around the anus of the sheep was shorn to prepare
for full blanket (all the wool on the sheep’s body) shearing the next day.
|Sheep crutching not only keeps the blankets cleaner,
but it improves health of the sheep and helps the
farmer identify fly strikes and parasites.
|The sheep breed on this farm was a Romney-Perendale cross.|
|The ewe lambs being shorn were around 6 months of age. After shearing,
they were turned out into pasture for the summer season.
After this experience, it makes me wonder why farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are not following this New Zealand example. How do ‘ewe’ believe this could make a difference for the public perception of agriculture?