What is the Best Way to Shear a Sheep?
Important reasons for regular sheep shearing
If you keep sheep, you should know that sheep shearing is an unavoidable maintenance procedure for the animals. The wool that has kept the animal warm over the winter needs to come off as temperatures rise in the spring so that it can survive the hot summer without health problems. The wool impedes air circulation, putting the sheep at risk of heat buildup. In addition, parasites and dirt caught in the wool can stress the sheep.
Finding the right date for sheep shearing
You should shear or have your sheep sheared at least once a year. Don’t choose the first shearing date too early, so that the animal is not defenseless against the cold when temperatures drop, but also not too late, so that the sheep does not suffer from the high outside temperatures. Shearing should be done in mid-May at the earliest, after the Ice Saints, or better yet, in early June, after the sheep are cold. If the animals are kept on pasture all year round, you must ensure that shearing takes place in good time before the start of the cold season, so that enough sheepskin can still grow back and the sheep do not get cold. If you keep the sheep in winter in a barn where the temperature does not drop below 10 degrees Celsius, you can shear the animals later in the year.
It can also be useful to shear sheep that are used for breeding before the lambing season. The animals eat more to produce more body heat. This provides them with enough energy for birthing. Also, you can keep the sheared sheep cleaner when the sheep give birth, and the lambs will find the teats easier to suckle. Inflammation of the udder can be detected earlier and subsequent damage can be prevented. If you establish flocks of lambs for lambing pens, you further optimize the mother-child relationship. If lambs are still rejected by their mothers, you can use adoption boxes for lambs to ensure that dams and lambs get used to each other again.
Proper preparation and a good clipper make shearing easier
Make sure the animals are doing well at the time of shearing. Even if you do the shearing properly, it means increased stress for the animals. Injuries from the clippers must be avoided at all costs. If an animal is injured, you must treat the wound immediately.
The central element in sheep shearing is the shearing machine. Mostly electric hand machines are used for shearing sheep. Special shearing machine oil ensures optimal lubrication of all moving parts in the shearing head.
It is best to drive the sheep into a pen. You must make sure that the sheep cannot get wet before shearing. A wet sheep, must not be sheared, because the animal or the person shearing it can get an electric shock from the shearing machine. Also, you can’t roll up wet wool and sell it.
In the pasture, sheep are quickly rounded up with the help of mobile catch and treat systems with herds and backstops. There are also easy-to-assemble structures for roofs for mobile pasture shelters that can protect sheep from rain or, after shearing, from the sun. Sheep can get sunburned just like us humans.
Make sure the sheep shearing machine is cleaned and disinfected to avoid transferring parasites and infectious agents.
What to consider when buying a shearing machine?
When buying a sheep shearing machine, you should urgently consider some points so that the shearing goes smoothly:
The length of the cable should allow you to work without restrictions. The plug of the extension cord can otherwise disturb you a lot during the shearing. The power of the motor of the clipper for sheep is important. With a weak motor and correspondingly poor performance, you will have to re-shear more often, which will cost both man and animal time and nerves. The shearing blade must not be too fine, so that it does not get stuck in the thick sheep wool.
Make sure you have a spare set of clipper blades in stock. A quiet clipper at about 70 dB(A) is more comfortable for noise-sensitive animals. Consider the weight of the sheep clipper. The lighter the machine, the less your arms will tire.
Carrying out the shearing
An inexperienced shearer will quickly have an animal injured or stressed by their inexperienced actions. Also, the wool can be damaged by improper shearing, which reduces the sale value. Therefore, you should think carefully about whether you want to do the sheep shearing yourself or hire an experienced shearer.
If you decide to do the shearing yourself, it is best to take part in a shearing course. Corresponding courses are offered by the chambers of agriculture of the federal states together with sheep breeding associations (www.landwirtschaftskammern.de/adressen.htm). On the Internet you can find informative videos on the correct shearing of sheep and the different shearing techniques under the keywords “Demonstration video sheep shearing”.
You have several options for shearing a sheep. Tame sheep can be sheared standing up. They can be tied by their collar for a short time. They usually calm down quickly once they get used to the vibration of the clippers. The back is clipped first, then the two sides up to the belly and the legs are clipped in succession. This is followed by the neck and throat shearing. In the floor shearing, which is mostly done in New Zealand, the shearer clamps the sheep between his legs. First the belly wool is sheared, then the leg and tail wool and the head wool. Only then does the shearer separate the fleece at the neck and then shear it off in one piece. This technique allows the wool of the fringe to be accurately separated from the fleece wool.
If you want to sell the fleece, you should sort the wool during shearing. The wool sections of the individual body parts differ in hair thickness, crimp and color. External influences such as dirt, friction or wetness also affect the wool quality. Therefore, remove soiled parts of the wool from the belly, tail, legs, head and neck from the fleece. Then store or pack the fleece without these wool parts. In English, this process is called “woolhandling”.
Sheep wool – a natural product with excellent properties
With the wool you have received from the shearing of your sheep a natural product with outstanding properties. It represents a renewable animal raw material, is free of toxicological ingredients and absorbs moisture well. In addition, it is hardly electrostatically chargeable, flame retardant and has very good thermal insulation properties.
With the new wool of your sheep you hold a product in your hands that belongs to the oldest spinning materials. Today, however, sheep’s wool plays only a minor role in the textile industry. It is mainly spun into yarns or mixed with other fibers. However, its properties are used for mattresses or as insulating material. Sheep’s wool is also being tested as an air filter. It is said to absorb air pollutants indoors. This plays a major role in the evaporation of wood-based materials, paints, varnishes, adhesives and insulating materials.
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