Last week I had my first attempt at shearing sheep. I've watched sheep being sheared many times before but never actually had a go.
I invested in some good quality Hauptner electric shears last year, with the intention of doing our own shearing in 2010. As you can imagine, sheep which are kept primarily to be chased by dogs need to be looked after well and they will certainly be more comfortable in warmer weather if they don't have those massive woollen coats so I wanted to be able to shear the sheep when I wanted, rather than when a contractor was available.
Dogs that are untrained can be quite aggressive with sheep, and in this case, it's advisable to have a reasonable covering of wool to protect them from bites, so I decided to shear a few sheep at a time to enable me to bring out the woolliest coated sheep to use with the occasional wayward dog, but using the shortest coated sheep in hot weather!
It's not shearing time in the UK, so there was no chance of watching an expert but I wanted to see some actual shearing to remind me of the proceedure. I knew I should start with the underside of the sheep but wanted to know where to go from there and in what sort of order to shear the various parts of the sheep.
I did some research on the internet and was surprised to see there are some useful shearing videos on YouTube. I also downloaded the New Zealand Wool Board Shearing Pattern (would you believe). Having studied this carefully, I was ready to begin.
I thought I'd shear just one sheep to see how it went and then take it from there. We got the sheep in using Kay (below) and I selected the first 'victim'.
My first concern was to avoid damage to the sheep's skin and I'm glad to say that any cuts were very minor indeed.
The secret is to keep the skin smooth - don't allow it to wrinkle. The first sheep seemed to take forever to shear and I'm sure the sheep would agree too. She struggled, and I struggled, but eventually, the sheep got up and the fleece was there on the floor. I was delighted.
Spurred on by my success, I sheared another two sheep that evening but I was exhausted by the time I'd finished them. The following day I sheared another six before I was too tired to carry on. Pathetic I know. Professional sheep shearers can clip up to three hundred sheep in a day and I was out of it after six - but I'd bet they don't shear their first sheep at the age of sixty one!