With lambing right around the corner, I wanted to get the girls shorn (man, shorn. Gotta be on the list of weirdest words ever!). Shearing helps prevent lambs from getting stuck in wool, and helps those silly lambs be able to find the teats better.
Now, last year we only have 5 sheep. So in all my brilliance I said… I’ll go take a sheep shearing class!!!
So I did. It was a two-night eight-hour course at the Penn State Extension.
Side bar: The Penn State Extension is INVALUABLE. Their website is amazing and they offer very reasonably priced classes.
The course was intense. The instructor started the first class by saying that most likely about half of us would not show up the second night. Suffice it to say, he was right.
Really it was like something out of a Three-Stooges video. Grown men were lifted right off the ground, and quite a few times, we were all chasing sheep around a barn.
You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you how bruised up I was afterwards. Lol.
But I learned a LOT, got through both nights and was quite proud of myself.
So this is our second year of shearing our own sheep. 5 last year. 7 this year. Honestly, there is simply no other way to put it.
It’s a HUGE pain in the ass.
It’s a miserable day for both us and the sheep. They’re more flail-ee that you would imagine, and seem to have very disproportionate strength for their size.
I would love to say that I had full intensions of taking pictures but just forgot… and while I did think ABOUT it… I knew this was simply never going to happen. It’s too intense. Pictures are not exactly on my mind in those moments.
But here’s what I can offer…
My non-professional tips for any other non-professional giving it a try:
1) — obviously from my husband — If you’re a guy, wear a cup. (I’m NOT joking.) Preferably a metal one. They know when the best time to strike is, and it’s not a pretty sight.
2) Keep the concepts you read about/saw online/learned in class in the front of your mind, but realize that in the moment, you’re probably just largely going to be doing whatever works in that moment.
3) While you’ve got them down, do whatever else you can. This year, I checked eyelids and looked for mites (all good, yay!) trimmed hooves (this is easy, here’s a great video) and gave CD-T shots (it’s also the perfect time to give CD-T to pass immunity to the lambs).
4) No matter how much you’ve read that getting the equipment just right is important and worth the time to set up right, it still hasn’t been emphasized enough!! When the blades and shearers are running perfectly, they FLY through the wool like butter. When they’re not, you feel like you’re fighting a loosing battle.
This is still our biggest obstacle. But we did better than last year. And hopefully by the time we do the boys this year, we’ll be even more knowledgeable on it and I’ll be able to report back with what we did to help make it smoother.
5) Almost everything will teach you how to do this on your own, one person. Nice idea. Don’t do it. Just… don’t.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who take a class, and then are able to do it single-person style right off the bat. But really… why would you do that? Grab a spouse, a friend, hell, if you have to, pay a neighbor to help you out.
It’ll be worth it. There will be an extra set of hands on the sheep, and really JUST as important, (because this can get stressful FAST!) someone else to roll their eyes and laugh with you when the sheep gets away and a half shorn sheep is running around the field (who will now come NOWHERE near you) right after you realize you forgot to either halter tie her to something, or be in an enclosed space. (yup, true story)
Oh yeah… and….
6) Either halter tie them off to something, or have them in an enclosed space. Sheep are freaking feisty!
While I didn’t get any pictures during, afterwards, I did take some afterwards:
Sheep look SO ridiculous after being sheared. It’s SUCH a drastic size change, and their faces don’t match their bodies anymore!
Interesting fact: Sheep re-establish pecking order when they are sheared (even though the top dogs usually stay on top). Here’s a video of my head ewe making sure the others didn’t forget she was in charge!
It seems harsh doesn’t it??! Lol. But it’s also important for the health of the flock. I was actually lucky to have gotten a few that WANT to be leaders. Sheep (hence the sayings) are usually more the “follower” type. Often, in such a small flocks, no one wants to be the “leader” and you end up with a more nervous flock. No problem here though!!
I would absolutely LOVE to hear anyone else’s experience with shearing your own sheep. Have you ever thought of doing it?
Or… how much do you love the person who shears your animals? Do you bring them lemonade and cookies? If not… you maybe you should!!