ROOING SHETLAND SHEEP
© Kathy Baker Oct 30 2005
Rooing is the process of removing the fleece
from the sheep by hand plucking the wool. Many Shetland sheep
retain a complete or partial tendency to shed the current year’s
fleece growth in late spring or early summer. At the point where the
fibre diameter becomes thinner and weaker, the fleece breaks quite
easily. It does not hurt the sheep when the weakened fibres are
plucked or rooed by hand.
Breeders of Shetlands will notice
that certain sheep and sometimes certain family lines have a greater
tendency to shed than others. At one end of the spectrum there are
Shetlands that shed their fleece so readily that it will be lost to
the pasture and bird nests unless the shepherd quickly and roos or
clips the sheep as soon as signs of shedding (loose tufts of wool
poking out of the fleece) appear.
Others will partially shed, leaving portions of
the fleece that must be removed by clipping. If you wait, those
parts of the fleece may shed over a period of weeks. At the other
end of the continuum, some Shetlands show no tendency to shed at all
and must be hand clipped or sheared.
An advantage to rooing a fleece is that the
previous year’s growth is removed at exactly the right point leaving
the next year’s growth rising cleanly on the sheep. Also there is
no loss in staple length or creation of short fibres as can happen
when the sheep is sheared above or below the rising new fleece.
See also RISE.
I saw Shetland sheep at a show on the Shetland
Islands in August 2003 on a tour organised by Rena Douglas, a
Shetland breeder in Scotland. Some had been sheared and others were
rooed. An owner of one of the rooed sheep explained that the fleece
on the sheep would show better as rooing leaves a more natural
looking, softly tipped new fleece with optimal staple length rather
than the smooth, blunt cuts after electric shearing.