Questions about Shearing? Ask a Farmer!
We typically shear every year in March/April before the ewes lamb. This year the weather didn't cooperate and we ended up shearing most of the ewes after they lambed.
We spend a lot of time skirting, washing, and processing the wool.
If you follow our Facebook or Instagram Farm page, then you know I talk about wool a lot! I also have had many conversations concerning shearing. From someone who has raised sheep for 23 years, these are my thoughts....
Sometimes I am surprised by some of the "rumors' that fly around about farming. Actually, not as surprised as I use to me. Thank you internet (haha)
One of the biggest misconceptions I find, is about sheep shearing. I have read articles that talk about the horrors of shearing sheep. I have seen pictures of lambs. cut up and bleeding (you don't shear 2 month old lambs, fyi) Last I checked, all of my sheep survive the shearing experience. Actually they handle it better than my toddlers did during their first hair cut!
I have heard that sheep are abused while being shorn, even experiencing bodily injury/death. An experienced shearer knows how to handle a sheep, and most of the time the sheep handle it pretty well. The lambs and yearling ewes are a little more high strung about it, but the shearer does not harm them. Occasionally a ewe will get a cut from the clippers, which is dealt with at the time of shearing, and it heals very quickly.
A good reason to hire an experienced sheep shearer. They do make the experience easier on everyone!
( I think I have received more injuries during shearing days, than the sheep )
I have heard about the unnecessary stress that sheep are put through by shearing because a sheep will only grow the amount of wool it needs. False! I keep sheep, we have missed shearing times, the wool gets VERY long, matted, dirty, and collects manure tags. Unshorn sheep not only look unkept, but they also will lose body conditon, and it is not a good situation for them at all. Sheep are domesticated and have been for a very, very, long time. Shearing is necessary if you want to raise healthy sheep. ( unless you raise hair sheep)
I have heard claims that sheep would shed their wool, naturally before summer. If only! I have never had a sheep shed its wool. If they did we wouldn't have to hire a shearer every year. There are some sheep that do shed their wool, but most do not.
Our sheep will grow fleeces that weigh between 7-11 pounds annually. After shearing, our sheep bounce around like lambs. I personally think they appreciate that wool cut!
If you visit a farm on shearing day, you will see the sheep are handled with care, and the shearing experience takes but a few minutes.( We have had groups come out on shearing day, I assure you, there were no children watching on in horror as the sheep got their annual clipping.)
Any smart farmer will not want harm to come to his/her animals. Why would they? They are an investment! It only makes sense to take care of that investment. If I had a shearer that abused my animals, or left them seriously injured, I would be looking for a new shearer. Large farms are not much different than small farms, they just have more sheep, once you get to a certain number of animals does not mean you quit caring about them. Sheep are expensive, a stressed animal that needs medical care, is not a good scenario.
We pay for these sheep, they are not cheap. Most of our ewes live their lives out here, we take good care of them. In return, they give us beautiful wool fleeces and lambs. Wool is a renewable product, that has so many wonderful qualities (biodegradable, breathable, durable, fire retardant, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties).
Win, Win! That is how I see it. If you have questions about animal husbandry, ask a farmer, that is what I do. I think wool is an amazing fiber, in case you couldn't tell. I am grateful to play a small part in sharing wool and wool products with others.