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How to Shear

How to Shear

excerpted from Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep
by Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius
ISBN: 978-1-60342-459-2
www.storey.com
used with permission

The real trick in shearing isn’t learning the pattern of the shearing strokes, which lessens the time involved in removing the wool, but in immobilizing sheep by the various holds that give them no leverage to struggle. A helpless sheep is a quiet sheep. Rendering sheep helpless cannot be done by force alone, for forcible holding makes them struggle more. Try to stay relaxed while you work.

Note both the holds on the sheep, often by use of the shearer’s foot or knee, and the pattern of shearing in the illustrations.

Even though shearing cuts heal quickly, use an antibacterial spray to help prevent infections, which may spread to the lymph glands or result in fly-strike. Commercial shearers don’t normally do this, but if you’re there to help, you can pay attention to these cuts.

Shearing in 20 Steps

How to Shear
1. Slip your left thumb into the sheep’s mouth, in back of the incisor teeth, and place your other hand on the sheep’s right hip.
How to Shear
2. Bend the sheep’s head sharply over her right shoulder and swing the sheep toward you.
How to Shear
3. Lower the sheep to the ground as you step back. From this position you can lower her flat on the ground or set her up on her rump for foot trimming.
How to Shear
4. Start by shearing the brisket, and then sheer up into the left shoulder area. Place one knee behind the sheep’s back and your other foot in front.
How to Shear
5. Here, the sheep is on her left side. Trim the top of her head, then hold one ear and shear down the cheek and side of the neck as far as the shoulder, into the opening you made for the brisket.
How to Shear
6. Place the sheep on her rump, resting against your legs. Shear down the shoulder while she is in this position.
How to Shear
7. With the sheep in this position, hold her head, as shown, and shear down the left side.
How to Shear
8. Hold her left front leg up toward her neck, and from this position shear her side and belly.
How to Shear
9. With only a minor shift in the position of the sheep, you are now ready to shear the back flank.
How to Shear
10. By pressing down on the back flank, the leg will be straightened out, making it easier to shear.
How to Shear
11. From this position, the sheep is shorn along her backbone and a few inches beyond, if possible.
How to Shear
12. By holding up the left leg, it is possible to trim the area around the crotch.
How to Shear
13. The job is half done. The shearer’s feet are so close to the sheep’s belly that she cannot get up.
How to Shear
14. Holding one ear, start down the right side of the neck. Hold the ear firmly but not tightly – you don’t want to hurt her.
How to Shear
15. Hold the sheep with your left hand under her chin and around her neck and shear the right shoulder.
How to Shear
16. Pull the sheep up against you to expose her right side, so that you can shear down that side.
How to Shear
17. Shifting position, as shown, shear farther down the side and the rump.
How to Shear
18. Shifting position again, finish the right flank and shear the sheep’s rear end.
How to Shear
19. Shift position, holding up the rear leg, and shear the right side of the crotch.
How to Shear
20. The job is done, and within a minute the sheep is back on her feet and eating grass.

Shearing Suggestions

  • Shearing is something you learn with practice; over time you’ll develop techniques that work well for you, but these suggestions should help you get started.
  • Shear as early as the weather permits so shearing nicks will heal before fly season. Ewes can be sheared (gently) before lambing; this makes it easier to help the ewe if necessary and removes dirty wool tags that the lamb might suck on.
  • Never shear when the wool is wet or damp. Damp wool is very hard to dry for sacking and storing. It is also combustible and can mildew.
  • Pen the sheep in the afternoon prior to shearing so they will not be full of feed when sheared. A covered holding pen with a slatted floor is ideal.
  • Shear on a clean tarp, shaken out after each sheep, or on a wood floor that can be swept off. A 4×4-foot (1.2×1.2 m) piece of plywood works well.
  • Shear fleece in one piece, but don’t trim the wool from the legs or the hooves onto the fleece.
  • Remove dung tags, and do not tie them in with the fleece.
  • Avoid making second cuts – that is, going twice over the same place to tidy up on overlapping your strokes.
  • Roll fleece properly, and tie with paper twine if you’re selling to a wool dealer or in a wool pool.
  • Skirting the fleece (removing a strip about 3 inches [7.6 cm] wide from the edges of the shorn fleece) is proper, especially if you’re selling to spinners. A slatted skirting table makes this easy and enables any second cuts to drop off if the fleece is thrown onto the table with the sheared side down.
  • Be sure you shear black sheep and white sheep separately, sweeping off the floor between each. Do not combine white fleece with dark fleece.
  • For spinning wool, expect top dollar for quality (clean fleeces without manure tags, skirtings, or vegetation).
  • For lower-quality fleeces, charge lower prices and explain the reason for the price to the customer. These fleeces may be quite adequate for quilt batting, rug yarn, or felting.