Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sheep Shearing 101

My regular shearer has left town, so I decided to buy electric shears and have a go at.  I watched some Youtube videos and bought a poster which shows exactly how to shear a sheep.  So here I am with sheep #1.  Jonathan is holding the poster so I can intermittently consult it. 

Once you  plop the sheep on its rear end, it becomes remarkably docile.  Supporting it with you feet and knees, you move it through several positions.  Theoretically you can take all the fleece off in in 47 strokes, which are called "blows".  The trick is to hold the cutting edge next to the skin so that you get all the wool off in once cut and avoid having to go back and make second cuts, which produce short fibers which are no good for spinning.

If you look closely at this picture you will notice red spots on the shearing board.  It is not sheep blood.  I nicked my finger tip on the first sheep and had to bandage it before continuing.  It was a hot day in the sun and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my back held out.  I was able to shear 4 ewes this way.

We moved the operation into the shade and Jonathan tried his hand at it.  Here he is shearing the belly wool.  You need to pull the skin with your left hand to smooth out the wrinkles to avoid nicking the sheep.  You also have to be careful around the udder and lower end of the  sheep.

After four ewes, I felt it was time to quit while I was ahead, so we sheared the rams standing in the head gate.  It was much cooler in the shade, but the mosquitos were thick, so I put on a long sleeved shirt.

This is much easier on the shearer, but I've always enjoyed new challenges, and would like to be able to shear sheep the way the pros do it

Gunnar getting his summer haircut.  We did not save any of the wool.  It was matted winter wool, full of hay and other debris - which also made it more difficult to shear.

Not much you can do with your head in a vise.

A pair of sandhill cranes checking out the shorn ewes and with their unshorn lambs.

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