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Beyond the Bale : December 2015
ON FARM 41 As Australia moves into the middle of summer, woolgrowers might want to consider the option of their shearers using cover combs to help protect their sheep from peak temperatures. Cover combs are only a nine-tooth comb, so there is wider gap between the cutting edges than the normal thirteen-tooth flat comb used in most sheds. This leaves about two to three weeks’ growth of wool on the sheep after shearing which provides the sheep with thermal protection from the elements. While cover combs have been around for a long time, their design has improved in recent years and their adoption is slowly increasing. Already used in some regions during the middle of winter, such as the New England region of NSW, cover combs have traditionally been used to protect sheep from the cold. However, they could also be useful during hot summers to protect sheep from the heat and sunburn. AWI shearing industry development coordinator Jim Murray says there could be advantages in using a cover comb when extreme weather conditions are forecast in the immediate period after shearing. “If woolgrowers know that a big change in weather is expected – cold or heat – it is worth woolgrowers and shearers discussing what type of comb might be best,” he said. “Flat combs will still very much have a place in the shearing shed. Cover combs are simply another tool for the shearing team and the producer to consider. The advantage for the woolgrower of cover combs is that their sheep with a layer of wool on them go through tough conditions better. “For the shearer, cover combs enter and are pushed through the wool easier than a flat comb, and there is also less chance for the shearer to accidentally nick the skin because the wool cutter is up off the skin more. “The shearer holds the handpiece slightly different to normal but it is quick to learn and easy to use, especially if the sheep are in good condition. It takes about the same time to shear each sheep.” Woolgrower Sydney Lawrie of ‘Collandra North’ on the Eye Peninsula of South Australia believes cover combs can be useful to help protect freshly shorn sheep on his property from sunburn and extreme heat. “Earlier this year we shore all our rams and young ewes using cover combs to leave a bit of protective wool on the sheep. The shearing went well, with the shearers having no problem adapting to the new combs. “I think the use of cover combs benefitted the sheep as they didn’t have the pink look that freshly shorn sheep with a flat comb can sometimes have which can be prone to sunburn. “We’ll be shearing our ewes at the end of January which is only a couple of months before lambing. We want to minimise any stress for the ewes at this time, and because sunburn has the potential to be sore and stop the ewes eating as well, we’ll be using cover combs to leave a couple of weeks’ wool on them. “This will help ensure the ewes have as good a condition score as they can at lambing, which is important to help increase lamb survival and marking.” Sydney Lawrie of ‘Collandra North’, Tumby Bay; Heiniger SA sales manager Darren McEvoy and AWI shearing industry development coordinator Jim Murray with some poll Merino ram lambs shorn with a cover comb. PHOTO: Stock Journal. COVER COMBS IN THE HEAT OF ACTION Shearing cover combs leave two to three weeks’ wool growth which can help protect freshly shorn sheep from heat and sunburn in peak summer weather as well as from the cold in wintery conditions. Gun shearer Damien Boyle from Western Australia doesn’t have any problem with cover combs. In October, he won the New Zealand Merino Championship's Open final – a competition in which cover combs are used – for a sixth time in a row. PHOTO: Barbara Newton
In the Shops - March 2016