Samples & Scans

We recently took wool samples from each of the yearling ewes, yearling rams, & some older rams. This was done right before they were sheared. The older rams have had samples taken before. However, we sampled them again to make sure their wool has not become more coarse with age.

A small patch of wool was clipped from the sheep, then placed in a plastic bag & labeled with their ear tag number. These samples were then sent to The Bill Sims Wool & Mohair Research Laboratory {Texas A&M AgriLife Research} in San Angelo.

A laser scanner determines average fiber diameter of the wool. The smaller the diameter, measured in microns (1/10,000 centimeter), the finer the fleece of wool. Finer wool means higher quality & a softer feel. This data is then used as an aide in breeding selection. Having this individual data allows us to cull individuals from the herd that have undesirable fleeces.

It is important that our sheep not only produce a quality fleece, but also a quality carcass. Ultra sounding an animal allows us to put a score of muscling by weight, which would be difficult by visual observation alone.

Casey Worrell {certified by the Ultrasound Guidelines Council} came out & ultra sounded the yearling ewes & rams that we took the samples from. He then sent us the results, including loin eye area & rib fat thickness, for each ewe & ram. With this information, we can compare each animal with a ratio of square inches of loin eye muscle per 100 pounds of animal.

Both fiber & scan data are valuable tools in selecting ‘keeper’ ewes & rams. By evaluating both pieces of data for each animal, we can make educated decisions on which ones best suit our herd.

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Bennett Land Trust & Texas Wool Handling School

On April 27th, we hosted a tour here at the ranch as part of the 5th Annual Bennett Land Trust Stewardship Conference.

The Bennett Trust was established through a posthumous endowment provided by Eskel & Ruth Bennett to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The endowment supports land stewardship education in the Edwards Plateau to help improve & protect the region’s valuable natural resources. source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

The conference was held in Kerrville. It offered landowners the opportunity to learn best
management practices, regardless of enterprise, size of the property, or knowledge level. The conference covered issues such as brush control, prescribed burning, estate planning, water management, & livestock stocking rates. Part of the conference was tours, with Hillingdon Ranch being one of the stops.

While here, participants learned about the land & our livestock. They also heard about the techniques we use in managing our operation in a way that continues to benefit the natural ecology.

The group went on a tour through the pastures to see examples of management practices & realistic approaches that balance the needs of people, livestock production goals, wildlife habitat, rainwater sequestration, soil conservation, ecological preservation, as well as predator management.

On May 4th & 5th, the Texas Wool Handling School was held here at the ranch. This was a wool education opportunity hosted by us, held in conjunction with sponsorship from the American Sheep Industry Association & the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association.

The two day event was led by Dr. Lisa Surber, ASI Raw Wool Services Instructor. Paul & Dawn Brown (http://www.independencefarmsteadfibers.com/) helped organize the event.

Much needed rain kicked the two day event off, knocking out the power for five hours & sending the shearers back home to Rocksprings (unable to shear). We are so thankful for the 2+ inches of rain we received, as well as the positive attitude of the participants! Dr. Surber & the participants switched gears & carried on. They sat in the dark, listening to rain hit the barn’s tin roof & Dr. Surber talk about wool.

The next day was beautiful! Paco Ramirez, our head shearer from Rocksprings, came back & spoke to the group & demonstrated the art of shearing. Participants learned current wool handling practices & procedures & got to handle raw fleeces being shorn right off the rams.

Participants came from a range of backgrounds, from large & small producers to potential new producers to hand spinners. The group was very diverse & enthusiastic about the sheep industry. It was very refreshing to network with this group for two days! We learned so much about the hand spinning aspect of the fiber industry & realized how little we know in that realm!