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What are the Basics of Sheep Shearing?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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The basics of sheep shearing include using the proper tools, maintaining calm with the animals to avoid stress and potential injury, and using the proper methods for ensuring that the wool remains in good condition. Techniques can be easily learned for shearing sheep, although many breeders and farmers hire a professional shearer to complete the job for them. Sheep shearing can be time-consuming, so even seasoned shearers may need a little help. The most important things to remember when shearing sheep is to use clean tools, to clean the wool efficiently before getting started, and to avoid scaring the animals.

Sheep shearing should take place during warm weather, both to keep the sheep warm without their wool and to bring out the natural oils in their skin and add to the wool’s overall value. Wool is only sheared once a year to ensure that it is as thick and supple as possible, and it should not be sheared too late in the season when the weather becomes overly warm, because shedding may have already begun to take place. The wool should be sheared all in one piece, and sheep shearing should be done as close to the sheep’s body as possible.

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The sheep should stand on a clean rug or mat during the shearing process. Before getting started, the wool should be combed and picked to remove any debris or feces from the coat. Sometimes a sheep shearing platform can be used to hold the animals’ heads in place and to make it easier for the shearer to reach.

After sheep shearing has taken place, the wool should be stored in a dry place before it is sold. Wool is used as bedding, clothing, and other linens and is particularly popular in colder climates, as it is very warm. Shearing does not hurt the sheep in most cases, but proper shears should always be used to ensure that no injuries are caused. Shears should also be kept clean and in good working order, and it is often a good idea to replace them as they age.

Sheep shearing can be challenging for those who have never done it before since animals are not always cooperative. Inexperienced shearers should always attempt shearing with an experienced person the first time around to learn the proper technique and to learn to interact with the sheep. Once these basic techniques are learned, shearing is generally fast and efficient.

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clintflint
Post 3

@pastanaga - I've always wanted to shear my sheep the old fashioned way, with hand clippers, like the farmer does in the movie Babe. I doubt I could find anyone nearby to teach me that technique, but I also think if someone is careful there's more danger to the fleece than there is to the sheep.

pastanaga
Post 2

@MrsPramm - Anyone who only has a few sheep isn't going to have proper sheep shearing equipment handy anyway. It's pretty expensive, both to get in the first place and then to maintain and not worth the cost at all if you've only got a few sheep.

We kept pet lambs when I was a kid and it was never worth it financially to shear them ourselves. We had nowhere to sell the wool and no idea how to shear them.

But we just got a neighbor to pick them up and he got to add their wool to the rest of his as payment. They do have to sheared, especially if they are a wool producing breed, as they can

get sick if they aren't, or trapped in fences. But there's usually no need to do it yourself.

They used to call our sheep "elephant sheep" because they were so big. We were a little bit too indulgent of them I suppose, but they were a bunch of sweet ladies.

MrsPramm
Post 1

Please don't attempt this unless you've had an expert show you what to do and who is standing by to help. Sheep can be very large and very strong and you are working with an implement that can cut them badly if you use it the wrong way.

Sheep shearing blades, even in the hands of experts, will often leave little nicks on the sheep, so I hate to think what it would do in the hands of someone who doesn't have a clue.

If you've only got a handful of sheep, just get someone nearby who has more to give you a call when theirs are being shorn and you can add yours into the bunch. For an expert one or two more sheep isn't going to make a difference, but it makes a big difference for the newcomers.

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