'How much does a wet fleece weigh' is a question I’ve been asking every sheep farmer that I’ve encountered over the past couple of weeks.

Having gone through all my lambs over the Christmas break and sorting them again by weight, I ended up with two small batches that weren’t far off being ready to kill.

These lambs just got a mineral drench and were put in fields near the yard, so that it was easy to feed them a high quantity of meal.


The rest of the lambs, apart from a small batch that were lame and needed the hospital treatment for a week or so, were put to fresh grass away from the yard. But not before also getting a mineral drench and an injection for worms and external parasites.

This injection meant that they couldn’t be killed until the 72-day withdrawal period was up, nor would they be ready before that anyway, so they were only getting a small amount of meal to leave them easy to work with.

Heavier lambs

Now back to the heavier batches around the yard. These lambs had been getting a decent level of meal since before Christmas, but hadn’t a lot of grass.

I fed them for an additional three weeks and decided to weigh them again, thinking some would be ready for the 'big blue taxi' (that's what we call the sheep lorry around here).

Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find they hadn’t gained what I was expecting.

It was only when I had them back in the field that it dawned on me that the last time I had weighed them they were soaking wet and this time they were bone dry, so how much weight should I be allowing for the difference?

Everybody I asked had a different theory, but most agreed that it would be somewhere between 1kg and 3kg.


Taking the wet/dry fleece issue into account, performance for most of them was probably on target, but I allowed another couple of weeks feeding would do no harm. Fast forward two weeks to last Saturday and I brought them in and weighed again.

It pretty much poured rain and blew a gale from morning to evening

Now last Saturday was not a good day to be working with sheep; last Saturday was not a good day to be working with anything except maybe a high stool.

It pretty much poured rain and blew a gale from morning to evening.

However, myself and two reluctant helpers brought in the lambs and weighed again. Now bear in mind this time they could be no wetter, but even allowing for that, they seemed to have gained an awful lot of weight in two weeks.

Now, as we all know, livestock don’t tend to gain weight at an even pace - there’s peaks and troughs along the way, pleasant surprises and disappointments, which is exactly what I’ve been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.

Depending on what weight I allow for a soaking wet fleece, a couple of these lambs might potentially die overweight, which means my price per kg will be cut.

Hopefully not, but they are away on the 'big blue taxi', so I wait with bated breath to see the outcome.