originally brought to the ranch by Palmer Giles (son of
Alfred Giles, father of Robin Giles).
Sheep, along with the goats, play a vital role in
controlling unwanted cedar. Sheep and goats have
effectively replaced fire as a brush control method.
Sheep are raised at Hillingdon because of their ability
to utilize forbs and weeds that might not be used by
cattle and goats. Not only are sheep effective brush
control managers, they also produce income from the
production of their wool.
As with cattle, when we feel like our sheep need to be
fed we start finding other places for them or start
getting rid of some.
Ewes begin lambing in March. At about 6-12 weeks old,
the lambs are vaccinated. Lambs are weaned at about 4.5
months of age.
Before shearing our sheep, we take wool samples from the
yearling ewes, yearling rams, and mature rams. A small
patch of wool is clipped from the sheep, then sent to
the Texas A&M Experiment Station in San Angelo where a
laser scanner determines average fiber diameter.
The smaller the diameter, measured in microns (1/10,000
centimeter), the finer the fleece of wool. Finer wool
means higher quality and a softer feel. Wool in garments
worn close to the skin, and that does not itch, is less
than 20 microns in fiber diameter. Hillingdon wool is in
the 18 micron range, which makes it soft to the touch
and makes for very comfortable garments. We have some
rams with fleeces averaging 14 microns, which is
This data can then be used as an aide in breeding
selection. Having this individual data allows us to cull
individuals from the herd that have undesirable fleeces.
Our sheep are sheared once a year, in the spring. Ewes
produce about 6-7 pounds of wool annually, while rams
average 8-10 pounds annually.
Advances in Technology
It is important that our sheep not only produce a
quality fleece, but also a quality carcass. Like our
bulls, we ultra sound our ewes.
In November, we ship some of our ewe lambs to the Samuel
Roberts Noble Foundation. The ewe lambs will be included
in grazing/gain research of perennial cool season
varieties planted in 1/16 acre paddocks. After the
research trial is complete, the ewes come back to the
ranch, are sheared, and are either kept for our own
breeding program or are sold.
We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with
this respected institute that provides such quality care
for our livestock.
Once our sheep are sheared, the wool is baled and taken
to Ranchman’s Wool and Mohair Export, Inc in Kerrville.
There it can be stored until the market is favorable.
At times, we are contacted by individuals looking for
clean wool. We keep clean wool on hand for occurrences
such as these.
In order for wool to be considered ‘clean’, it must be
washed in a gentle, spa-like process called scouring.
This gentle process is a must or else the fiber will
felt if aggressively agitated. When scoured, the wool
goes through a scouring train which removes wax
(lanolin), vegetable matter, and other impurities.
Lanolin is very much desired for the cosmetic industry.
It then passes through tubs with sets of rakes that move
the fleeces through a series of scouring soap and water.
At the end of the scouring tubs, the fleeces are rinsed,
dried, and baled.