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Sheep Shearing - The Do's and Don’ts

Tim Ryman |

Not everybody looks forward to a hair-cut and that definitely applies to sheep. The thought of shearing doesn’t bring any excitement to the faces of sheep - or that of farm owners either. They both dread it almost equally, as it’s a process that is often not as easy as it can and should be. But there are ways you can make this task easier for yourself and them too. All it takes is a little education on what to do – and what you should avoid at all costs!

Remove Feed

It is advisable to not feed sheep on the day of shearing. They can munch on hay the night before or even overnight, but a sheep that has a filled rumen may pose several problems while being sheared.

Sheep shouldn’t be fed or given water at least eight hours before the shearing is due to begin. It is also advisable to keep the sheep away from pastures, as eating grass or dry hay right before shearing may cause a gas build-up in their system.

It may reach their lungs during shearing and this phenomenon is known as gasper. If this situation ever arises, the sheep should be brought back on its feet or else it might experience suffocation, which could also be fatal. The physical wellbeing of sheep should be at the forefront of the shearer’s mind.

About the Venue

The selected location should be sheltered so as to protect the sheep from rain or excessive sunlight. If the conditions are hot, you should look for signs which indicate that the sheep is stressed due to heat. These signs can include the sheep’s tongue hanging out and fluctuations in their respiration.

The area where you intend to perform the shearing should have dry conditions. Wet or stained wool can make shearing difficult. If dew or frost has moistened the wool, you should ensure that the wool has dried completely before you shear it off.   

The sheltered pen where the sheep is kept should not have concrete floors. It should be free from filth and moisture, as these are conditions that are most likely to soil the sheep’s wool and affect the quality of wool sheared off them.

Handle with Care

Being in the good books of sheep definitely helps when they are made to go under the blade. The process of shearing can only be completed peacefully if the sheep aren’t protesting much and this will only be possible if you’re familiar with them.

Some may be unwilling despite your best assurances. For such untrusting sheep, the only way you can shear their wool is by using muscle, but most importantly, patience and compassion.

You can lead them by a rope, preferably with another person at their back. Hold them down gently and once you feel they have calmed down, you can get started with stripping them of their wool.

Allow the Sheep to Focus

When shearing is being performed it is always better to not have any distractions around. The presence of other animals such as cats, dogs and other cattle that are not required at the event should be kept away. Their presence may unsettle the sheep and cause them to move around. Their restless movements can be dangerous as their skin is in close contact with a blade at the time of shearing.

Practice Good Hygiene

The shearing equipment used to shear wool should be properly disinfected before it is used on the sheep. Special precautions and care must be taken in the case of those sheep that are suffering from an infectious disease. Once the affected sheep has been sheared, the sheep shears should be sanitised so as to prevent the condition from spreading.

Confident Blows

The way you handle sheep shears also has an impact on the sheep’s willingness to play ball. Making confident and strong blows somehow lets the sheep know that you know what you’re doing and inevitably puts them at ease. Developing a rhythm to it will help you make fewer mistakes and you will easily navigate the sheep shears from one section to another. One should also avoid making second cuts to the sheep’s skin if the first cut failed to shear the wool properly. The wool derived from second cuts is usually not up to mark anyway and may not be good enough to be placed alongside properly sheared wool, so save both yourself and the sheep the unwanted effort.

Masterclip provides excellent quality sheep shears that will make this somewhat difficult task a lot easier moving forward. For guidance on how to sheer sheep appropriately, check out this video made by the Masterclip team.

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