Preparing for Shearing Day

Photo courtesy Australian Wool Innovation, Ltd

Shearing sheep is a job that’s normally done once (sometimes twice) a year. Preparing your facilities and flock will make the job easier on everyone involved! For the novice shepherd, a few helpful tips:

The Sheep

Sheep must be dry to be sheared! Sheep with wet wool – including dew and/or frost – should NOT be sheared.

Sheep should be held off feed and water at least eight hours before shearing. The flock should never come straight off pasture to be sheared. Grass and hay may build-up gas and possibly back-up into the lung area during shearing and cause what is called ‘a gasper’. If the animal is not put on its’ feet right away, it could die of suffocation.

If possible, stained wet wool and manure tags should be removed before sheep are penned. Avoid penning sheep in dirty pens or bare concrete floors.

White-faced, white wooled sheep should be sheared first; dark-faced/colored wool sheep (light to dark) last.

White wool and colored wool should not be packed in the same bag. Typically, for the small shepherd, bag each fleece individually, with a name tag for easy identification.

To properly ‘skirt’ a fleece before packing, the wool should be placed cut side down on a slotted surface (to remove second cuts). Any vegetable matter (VM), manure or urine stained wool should be removed. Leg and face clippings should also be removed. The shearer should have already removed the belly wool when shearing.

After skirted and cleaned, the fleece should be folded lengthwise, a third over a third, then the other third folded over the top and then rolled from the tail to the head before being packed. If possible, pack in burlap bags; plastic bags should be stored out of direct sunlight to avoid condensation.

BARN/Facilities

Plan to provide adequate adult helpers to keep the job moving. A clean, flat level surface (approx 8 X 8 feet) with lots of head room, good lighting and ventilation is best for the shearer to work on. A sheet of plywood or rubber mat makes a good working platform. If extension cords are necessary, heavy-duty cords to carry the load are recommended.

Keep the shearing area swept clean when necessary.

Keep a small pen filled and at the ready for catching sheep for the shearer. Sheep chased around a large pen/pasture before coming to the shearing floor will continue to fight while being sheared (and waste the shearer’s time).

No shearer deliberately cuts a sheep! If you wish to put disinfectant on any nicks or cuts have your spray bottle handy before shearing starts. The shearer is not going to hold a sheep for ten minutes while you try to find your spray bottle.

Have sufficient help to take the sheep from the shearer and do your foot trimming, vaccinations and worming after shearing (most shearers will assist the small shepherd, if requested). 

Happy fiber’n!

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