These merino sheep were being “yarded” in the Cardrona Valley, hence the blue dye on their heads. Possibly the next task would have been for a team of shearers to cut off their wool, grade it and then bale for distribution.
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Originally bred in Spain merino sheep in New Zealand (est. 27.3 million in 2018) are highly regarded for their ability to live on the smell of an oily rag in the vast high country environment bereft of shelter, due to the high lanolin and natural oil content of the wool, which helps shed water.
A good shearer can shear a full-grown sheep in 3-4 minutes without nicking skin. The average merino can produce up to 227 lbs of wool in its lifetime and it’s fibre can draw in up to thirty percent of its own weight in moisture while staying dry to the touch, and the helical ‘crimp’ and porous structure means it is an excellent thermal insulator. It is also super soft and fine thus making it comfortable for clothing worn next to the skin.
The term “merino” is widely used in the textile industries, but it cannot be taken to mean the fabric in question is actually one hundred percent merino wool – it is often mixed with another fibre, which can be a very good thing.
Eight percent of male merino sheep are allegedly gay and all have approx. 300 degree field of vision, and so do not have to turn their head to see behind them. They’ve also been bred to have an extra fold of skin under the chin, thus increasing the harvestable area of wool. Rams (many have impressive horns) can be quite feisty, and as we don’t have 300 degree vision it can be wise to keep an eye out when they’re in an enclosed space.
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