Friday, March 6, 2015

Shearing Sheep





Well I am beat. Kinda one of those deep down tired feelings you only get from over exerting yourself. I successfully sheared about four sheep today, or more accurately did parts of four different sheep as a couple of ladies and I tagged teamed the poor ewes.

They weren't small ewes either. Not as fat as the ones we have here but I would say on average they were just as tall at the back as ours. These sheep were more light cruisers in the girth department as opposed to many of the ones around here that rate up into the battleship or dreadnaught class.

I learned three important things today though.

1. The hardest part of shearing is learning where all the good pressure points are and how to put the poor sheep into a semi-pretzel shape where they won't panic and flail around. I ended up being the one who man handled the ewes to the shearing area and that was by far the most strenuous part of the entire process. I pretty much wore myself out the first time so bad trying to get the ewe situated I almost passed out shearing her belly. After the first one however it got progressively easier as I learned how to control em better and partly because it had no other direction to go but easier :)

2. My biggest issue is I am afraid of cutting the skin to the point that I wasn't using the shears aggressively enough. I knew nicking the sheep was common but the first time I nicked one it kinda upset me (much more than the sheep to be honest) and I had some issues really digging in after that because I was adjusting so much in the other direction.

Which then causes problem number 3.

3. I wouldn't be allowing myself to shear any sheep that I really want a good fleece off of. About all I really managed to do was make a mangled mess of wool by the time I was done but at least the ewes were shaved. I was being entirely too cautious especially around the dangerous/sensitive areas like the milk vein above the udder, the tendons on the legs etc. By being so cautious I ended up cutting the fleece too short and losing the really nice wool to the second cutting.

The truth of it is that the four poor ewes we worked on did eventually get sheared. They fought, and our uncomfortable and unsure movements didn't help the situation. In fact what really allowed the entire shearing process to be completed was more the fact that the ewes finally exhausted themselves fighting us and literally just gave up. By the time we were down to finishing up the back wool they just sort of laid there with a look of sheer bored exhaustion on their faces thinking "just get it over with you idiots".

I ain't lying either I know the expression ewes get when they are so tired they cannot fight anymore and just resign themselves to their fate and that was exactly what happened.

A good shearer will shave a sheep in five minutes or so. After my day of practice I would estimate I could do a small one in maybe half an hour. Maybe four to six a day would be my limit too :)

As I said the real secret is knowing how to manipulate the sheep with the minimum amount of effort. Until you know and become comfortable with all those moves you are only getting the job done by brute force and that wears you out way too fast.

My plan is to try shearing a couple of the girls that either don't have wool we want to keep or are full of vegetable matter to the point of ruining the wool anyway. Our professional shearer is coming in three weeks so I will try and practice while he is doing the real work that way he will be here if I need him. We pay him more by the trip than number he gets done anyway so it won't effect his bottom line any.

Now excuse me while I go pass out and will catch up on comments and other blogs in the morning....

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!



12 comments:

  1. Well that just made me curious, so I had to check it out. This vid teaches all the moves from a teacher at Penn. You learn these moves and you'll be good for the World Wrestling Federation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JH2PXAdwV4

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    1. Anon - That is a good video. The problems I was running into is the girls never went down that easy (Of course they never do :) and I was just flat out paranoid about cutting them. It reminded me of another issue though. You cannot see how the shears are actually cutting and you cannot see how you are stretching out the skin. That seems to be a thing the professionals have done so much they just know but since i couldn;t actually see it working I was paranoid.

      The third position was the easiest for me, the fourth we all had issues with until the ewes stopped kicking. I believe what we were doing was removing our foot out from under their shoulder blade when we went to cut the very back. I have short arms it would seem.

      Thanks for linking that video though as I said it is a good one.

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  2. I don't think I could shear one without calling the vet to do some stitching but I did see it done at work last year. A thin little girl showed up to do it but I found out later that she was a woman when she sheared all five of them and stopped once to breast feed her baby. So I had to call her a real woman. Now in the old days the kid would have hung on like a baby possum and fed it's self but we are modern around here. Anyway she was really good at shearing and they didn't know what had happened, one minute nice and warm then zip zip and standing there in the cold air with no coat on. Then we went and sheared the ram. I don't think I will be getting sheep anytime soon.

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    1. Sf - I think the shearing process is the single largest reason sheep are not the main meat animal kept by preppers everywhere. I love lamb and even mutton to my thinking it is even better than beef and sheep are about the easiest critters to keep with few wandering off or destructive problems.

      BUT the shearing problem and expense is a real pain in the ass. Almost every person at the class all said they were learning to do it because they couldn't find anyone they could pay to do it.

      Some rams would also scare me a bit as well.

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  3. I am impressed Preppy, although it sounds like a great deal of work. I would be as cautious as you, especially given my concern for injuring the animals. Like you are suggesting, practice practice practice.

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    1. TB - Thanks. I am pretty sure the hard work is in learning to not fight the sheep and my paranoia was making that more difficult. I was amazed at just how easily their skin could be cut. It was kinda scary.

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  4. Aren't there any sheep shearing classes where you live? There are here. We are lucky in that we have a shepherd that lives a few miles away that is also a shearer.

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    1. Tewshooz - That's what I was posting about. The shearing class I went to.

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  5. Interesting post. I've been to a number of shearings and always admired a good shear. For a handspinner, of course, that means no second cuts, but I have no doubt that comes with practice and experience. I understand there's a shortage of shearers, so you may find yourself in demand! Not an easy way to earn a little extra cash, but a useful service.

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    1. Leigh - Well I am going to start practicing on our sheep that have already ruined fleece when our regular shearer comes in a couple of weeks. Maybe once I get it down right I will do more and preparing for the time when I might have to do it myself. We sell some of the wool and my mother is a hand spinner as well so she keeps the good stuff for herself too. I am more worried about just getting the sheep sheared myself right now. We always have a few that something bad happens to like burrs and such so I should have a number of them to practice on. Once I get comfortable enough that I am not going to hurt them I may shear for others in the future.

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  6. All good things come to those who take their time.

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    1. Rob - And know the proper pressure points :)

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