Shearing a sheep is not a simple task, which is why many animal owners approach it with a sense of dread. It is necessary, though for the health and comfort of your sheep and fortunately it’s only something that you need to tackle once per year. You can sheer your sheep with a pair of hand sheers or get the job done more quickly with some electric clippers. Whichever tool you choose, shearing is a skill that takes some practice to master. Here are some simple steps to prepare for and shear your sheep so that you can get this task done as effortlessly as possible.
When to Shear Your Sheep
A sheep’s wool grows continuously, and if they aren’t sheared at least annually, they will become uncomfortable and stressed. This is particularly the case in hot and humid climates. Not shearing your sheep can lead to matted wool, which becomes even more difficult to remove later. Most sheep are sheared once per year, usually in the spring before the weather warms or before lambing. Shearing before lambing also creates a cleaner environment for baby lambs. If a sheep has a long fleece, it may require shearing twice per year.
Preparing to Shear
You should gather your sheep up to 12 hours before you plan to shear, so that they are less stressed for the process. This will also give their wool an opportunity to dry if you live in a wet climate. Shearing a sheep can be a physical job, so make sure that you are up to the task and consider doing some stretching exercises before you begin.
Getting Control of the Sheep
One of the biggest elements to successfully shearing a sheep is having proper control of the animal. You want to firmly support the animal and get the job done as quickly as possible so that you can avoid any cuts or injury to either party in the process. Assuming you are right-handed, begin the process by slipping your left thumb into the sheep’s mouth, behind its incisor teeth. Place your other hand on it right hip and bend the sheep’s head to the right while twisting the sheep towards you. Gently lower the sheep to the ground to begin shearing.
The Act of Shearing Your Sheep
Using your feet or knees to hold the sheep in place, you can begin shearing in one piece. The steps that you can take in this process include:
- Begin by shearing the brisket and then travel through the left shoulder area. While the sheep is still on their left side, trim the top of their head and down the side of the neck.
- Rotate the sheep to their rump and shear down their shoulder as well as the entire left side. From there you can move to the belly and around the legs.
- Shift the sheep slightly to its right so that you can reach its back flank, backbone, and around the left side of its crotch.
- With the sheep completely on its right side, begin shearing them from the right side of the neck all the way down as you lift the sheep and slowly rotate them back over to their left side.
- Once they are back on their left side, you can complete the job by shearing the animal’s rump and the right side of its crotch.
If you own sheep, sheering them is a responsibility. Once you’ve sheared your sheep each year, they won’t have protections from the elements for as long as six weeks while new fleece grows. During this time, they should be given extra insulation in colder climates and provided with additional feed to help maintain their body temperatures. These extra steps will ensure that your sheep remain healthy and the wool can either provide extra income or material for your spinning projects.