Auzqui: Sheep shearing 101
Sheep shearing is an art. I thought it was a task, but make no mistake it’s an art.
We run about 700 range ewes here at the ranch. Every spring we hire a crew to shear these sheep. Oddly enough it only takes one day to do that.
I have always felt like I can do anything that I have seen done. So of course after watching the shearing crew for several years I too could do this job. My small bunch of training sheep are always here at the house. I use these sheep daily for dog training. One spring I was looking at those sheep visioning myself smoothly shearing that wool off like butter. Tank top exposing my buff arms and two dogs laying at my feet waiting for a job. I soon fell in love with this fantasy and decided this year I would shear 30 sheep myself.
I ordered some clippers from Amazon. Looking back I should have ordered a how to guide, a strong back and some patience. UPS delivered the clippers and I found a tank top. Grabbed a dog and gathered the sheep. I plugged in my clippers and grabbed the first victim. Laid the dogs down and smiled at the sheep telling her not to worry. I explained to her I had seen this done for years and in a minute she would be lighter, and cooler.
So a minute was a slight understatement. It was more like 60 minutes of sweating, aching, cussing and regret. I was sure I was doing it right but the sheep was not cooperating at all. I tried force. I tried domination. I tried tying her up. While I was on one of my many breaks (to relieve my back) I had a thought.
On the next sheep I was going to try a different approach. I had the dogs help me corner victim number 2. She was just as combative as the first. But with her I started shearing in a new area. Any time she would struggle I would move the clippers to a different spot and she would settle. This was her telling me how to shear. She was right. As I guided the shears over her in the correct manner she was perfectly compliant. I was able to shear her in half the time. I was thinking at this rate I will have all 30 head done by summer. Haha.
I was learning two things. First that force is not how to approach sheep and two my fantasy was way sexier than the actual event. My tank top was soaked with sweat, my back was on fire. My muscles that had been in storage were inflamed and my dogs were busier than I had anticipated and required several “lie down” commands.
I was able to get about three sheep sheared when my husband showed up and he quickly banged out a few more for the day. We decided to leave the remaining sheep for the real crew. Although I didn’t finish the job I still had a great sense of accomplishment. I learned some good lessons. Most of all I learned to follow the feel. The sheep would guide me if I would just listen to her. I think this can be applied to all life. I think this is also where they get the term “smart wool” haha.
Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the June 25, 2022, edition of Tri-State Livestock News
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