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Sheep didn't suffer in very cold conditions
David Lindner was looking for a product such as Thermoskin - they were shearing sheep that were below par, in cold conditions... and said ‘We were really impressed’ after using Thermoskin for the first time.
David is from Wonga Pastoral Co, based in Morgan, South Australia, has a family run business with approx 15,000 pure merino sheep on 130 thousand acres (53,000 hectares), all low rainfall, 225mm average, at the southern end of the pastoral or rangeland country.
We had a chat with David to find out more about his experience and asked him to give us an understanding of his sheep, conditions and shearing:
He said: “At the moment we’ve had 20 odd horrible years as far as seasons go and the sheep this year are just a bit below par. It is predominantly a ewe flock, we don’t run any wethers so it is a dominant self-replacing flock which has a focus on surplus sales being 30 to 40% of the flock annually. Evenness of wool quality, constitution and body size in a flock average of 21 micron is another focus which is achieved by purchasing a top stud sire annually and breeding our own rams. The wether weaners are brought through to nine or 10 months to be shorn and May/June can be quite a cold period of time. We split our shearing. 2/3rds are shorn in May/June and 1/3rd are shorn in December.
Even though we do have a lot of cover in our country (a lot of bush and some scrub such as mallee and a little bit of black oak which is a native to this area in the casuarina family) out here, the area is known for the temperate climate but it can get really cold. We can get some really heavy cold frosty mornings.
A lot of frosty mornings we can get -1 to -4. Quite often you get a nice sunny day with it but in recent years we’ve been getting a lot more cold, cloudy, windy weather with it. The sheep don’t get a chance to really recover during the day and with it being so dry for so long our feed resources aren’t as good as they should be. Our native grass just wasn’t there. Their warming mechanism in good quality feed just wasn’t there either. That is why we were quite keen and looking for protective product."
We also asked him if he had experienced losses or challenges in the past from shearing in the cold. ”Yes, with ewes going over the board 4-6 weeks before lambing we get them in quick and get them out quick so we walk all our sheep into the shearing shed and everything gets trucked out that day to their paddocks to try and reduce the amount of stress. You get a really cold night 3-4 degrees and even minus within those first few days off shears, it really knocks them around. They sit behind a bush and huddle and don’t get going especially when they are that little bit lighter, they haven’t got that bit of fat coverage to keep them going. We have experienced losing a few overnight but the worst occasion was back in the early ‘90s when we had a change come in, cold driving rain and we lost 2 and a half thousand overnight. Something that no-one could have managed as sheep 6 weeks and more off shears perished, but it puts that fear in the back of your mind of what can I do better? In these days and now with the value of livestock we’ve got to try and do something to try and minimize those sorts of losses.”
David was asked: Are you happy with Thermoskin, would you use it again?
"Yes. My brother was watching the stock as we were going past and a couple of observations of what we believe normally happens quite often in these cold mornings. One morning we had -7 and another one -5 and his observations were that we just didn’t see the sheep huddled behind bushes like we usually do, trying to get on one side of the bush to get out of the breeze. A couple of mornings we had a light shower of rain, maybe a mil or two if we are lucky, but the sheep were out grazing and that was a few days off shears which is really good because they just weren’t huddled behind a bush again. They would usually be huddled behind a bush first thing in the morning, you would see them there huddled up and tucked up for hours and we didn’t see as much of that and even with those few showers during the day they didn’t go back and hide in the scrub they actually came out and tried to go grazing. And the one that really got us – I think it was that morning of -7, my brother went out and his dogs were absolutely frozen, one of them was struggling to walk and they were shivering. We had a little mob of wethers which were about 4 days off shears in a small holding paddock next to his house and when he drove past them on his way out they stood up from behind the bush and looked at him. They were quite happy. He said it was just astounding to see that they weren’t suffering. We were really impressed."