After possum hunting, what more could I expect to get out of my trip to an operating New Zealand sheep farm? Little did I know that we had arrived on “crutching” weekend. Crutching is when… God, what IS crutching? As far as I can tell, crutching is when you shave off a strip or so of hair around the behind of the famale sheeps. This helps with hygiene to keep the flies away from items that might get stuck… however, it’s apparently also more to ease the job of the ram who will be visiting their pasture in about a week.
Ronnie lives and works on the 1400 that holds 3000 sheep and 500 cows. The sheep’s wool are sold at auction everywhere, until they’re about six year old and then they are sold for meat. The cows take apparently from 1 and 1/2 to 2 and 1/2 years until they are ready to be sold for meat. That day he was crutching about 450 sheep, and wanted to get them all done by lunch time so we took off right after breakfast.
On the way however, we ran into a few obstacles:
Once we got near the shed, Blair took me to a flat bit of meadow where he said I could try out the four wheeler for myself. He gave me some instruction, but I made him promise he’d stay on the back with me just in case.
Apparently, Blair doesn’t keep his promise, as after a few meters I looked over and there he was running besides me!
Regardless, I got the hang of it! And I have to admit, it’s a little addicting.
Unfortunately, we had to get to work. Ronnie and his daughter had already started… They have heards separated into different stables, where they wait their turn to get crutched.
Then once they’re in the closest pen, they have to get hearded into the line by the sheepdogs.
It can take a little effort, of course, but it all works out in the end and they’re in order waiting to be ‘crutched.’
I have to admit, that it reminded me all of the movie “Babe,” with all the commands and sheep running everywhere- just obviously minue the pig.
Of course, I had to try for myself. When asked for a review of how I did, I was told it was “decent for an American.”
It can take forever just to shave a simple strip around the whole herds’ butt. And if you’re curious as to exactly how dramatic the results are, then here you go.
We finished the lot, with Sarah herding by command and Heidi hearding by generic noise. Ronnie did most of the crutching with Blair doing some light relieving. I, of course, was resident photographer. On the way back to the house, Blair and I took the scenic route, with me getting the grand tour of the farm.
If you can make out the slightly blue building to the slight right of the terrain, that’s where we were had been doing the shearing before we set off on a tour of the property lines. We made it back for lunch and cleaned up to pack for home!
I couldn’t have asked for a better New Zealand farm expereince….and in fact, when I returned to school one of the teachers who knew I was headed up there asked me how it was. When I replied enthusiastically that I crutched a sheep, she said ‘That’s more than I’ve ever done!’ So there you go- I’m more a kiwi than you’d think!