Hyer Wools Blog

Too Late to Shear Sheep? Not.


There could be any number of reasons why you may have missed getting the sheep sheared earlier this year. Perhaps there wasn't a good time, no extra money, or the sheep shearer just didn't call you back. Whatever the reason, as the season begins to cool, you might be thinking that you're too late and maybe you'll just wait til next year and try to get it done earlier. I'm hoping to convince you otherwise. It isn't too late.

The longer you wait the more this year's fleece weathers and wears. The tips are getting ragged and worn. Fibers will break within the staple, creating different lengths within the fleece and there are probably small patches of felting. For some breeds, additional growth produces a staple length that is too long to reasonably do anything with. For any breed, the value of the fleece plummets.

There are three important reasons to proceed with plans to shear this year. First, you may still be able to utilize the fleece. It may not be in such bad shape as you think. Even if you have to skirt more heavily, having even a small amount of beautiful fiber may be worth preparing by hand.

More importantly, the sheep will be less stressed and more comfortable without the weight of two seasons of growth. Leaving the wool long may also add to insect problems and too much wool collects urine and creates unsanitary dags. Some may be concerned that there isn't time for the wool to grow and the sheep will be cold without their coat. This actually isn't the case. There is still plenty of time for the sheep to grow enough wool to be covered. If you can shear 4-6 weeks before the start of your coldest weather, the sheep will be covered sufficiently. The wool will continue to grow and insulate them through the winter.

Finally, you'll be protecting next year's fleece. You may be willing to sacrifice the fleece this year, thinking you'll be more organized and ready for next year. But in reality, you would be sacrificing two years of fleece - this year AND next year, since next year's fleece is now attached to this one. Remember that wool grows continuously. The extra long fibers will likely mat and felt. Some fleeces felt right down to the skin and these are very difficult to remove. In any case, the old fleece will ruin the new fleece and you've lost two fleeces rather than one. If you shear now, the new fleece will have a somewhat shorter staple length, but the sooner you call and remove the current fleece, the longer the length will be on next year's fleece.

Your regular shearer is less busy by now and likely has time to come by. Just call to make an appointment. Don't feel embarrassed and you don't need to offer any excuses. They will be glad to come, especially if it prevents a possible messier job next spring. If the problem is having to change or find a new sheep shearer, here are a couple of suggestions on how to find a sheep shearer.

  • Ask friends for a recommendation. If you know other sheep people in the area, they may be able to help you with a name.

  • There may be a fiber group or guild with members that keep sheep. Ask at the library or try a google search for "(your area) fiber guild."

  • You could also call the Extension service in your county. The ag agent can possibly recommend a shearer and will likely know of sheep producers in the area who may be able to help you with a name.

  • Ask at the feed store. Sometimes the store keeps the name of a local shearer on file to recommend to their customers.

Many sheep shearers have a client list that is based on word of mouth and recommendations, so the previous suggestions are your best bet to find a local shearer. But, there are two online national directories that may be helpful.

  • The American Sheep Industry maintains a shearer directory at: https://www.sheepusa.org/Contacts_WoolPelt_ShearerDirectory

  • The US Sheep Breeders also maintains a directory of shearers. Check it out at: http://www.nebraskasheep.com/directory/Sheep_Shearers/

#Shearing #Fleece #FlockManagement

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