Shearing Bliss

The average American spends $21 on a haircut. The average sheep spends $0 on a haircut.

Sheep shearing
Photo by Crystal Lawrence

Mostly because they don’t have hair; they have wool. And they don’t have money. Or the ability to say what style they’d like. Or a ride to the salon. There are a lot of obstacles in the way.

So, it’s up to the rancher to step up and get the job done. Yes, rancher’s raise sheep, too (shhh…don’t tell anyone). And when they raise sheep, they not only raise them for meat, but for wool. This is where the haircut…er, woolcut…comes in. But, we call it shearing.

Shearing (shaving the wool off a sheep) is harmless, just like getting a haircut. You do need someone skilled and efficient, so as not to cut or injure the animal.

Just like RealRancher Jody Bagley is demonstrating, some sheep are sheared with electric shears. Most sheep are sheared with shearing machines, which help shear larger flocks faster. The farmer or rancher may shear their own sheep or hire professional sheep shearers. A skilled shearer can shear a sheep in minutes and can remove the fleece in one piece.

Sheep are usually sheared once a year, in the spring, before hot weather sets in. Many choose to shear before lambing starts because it creates a cleaner environment for the lambs and also keeps the fleeces cleaner. In earlier days the  wool is placed in large bags for transporting to the buyer.  As 8 foot-long bags would hang from a stand, “wool trompers” would jump into the bag after every few fleeces to pack the wool tightly.  Today most wool is packed in large bales using a wool press.

Just like your hair, wool never stops growing. Shearing keeps sheep less stressed and more comfortable. Just behold this look of relaxation…

Photos from RealRanchers Jody and Suellen Bagley – Auburn, Wyo.

Post by RealPartner Liz Lauck – Wyoming Stock Growers Association using information from www.sheep101.info and RealRancher Jim Magagna – Rock Springs, Wyo.

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