Shearing 101: What happens?

Having grown up on a working sheep farm, I have witnessed thousands of sheep be sheared safely and professionally each year.

So to counter some of the myths and misconceptions circulating which suggest shearing is cruel and exploitative, I thought I’d document an afternoon in a shearing shed in Lancashire, UK.

The videos and photographs have not been altered/photoshopped so what you see is what happens for yourself.

SHEARING

Here is a video of Luna, my ‘pet sheep’, being clipped.

This is a typical example of how sheep are sheared in the UK.

Seth, our local shearer, completes the task in 54 seconds.  

This may not be the quickest time but notice how the sheep is relaxed and unharmed by the process.

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The trailer set up

Farmers usually hire skilled and patient shearers who care for the welfare of the sheep – after all it is their livelihood in the shearers’ hands!

If a shearer is careless and unprofessional, word of mouth gets around and so they would not get any business.

No farmer would hire someone who physically abuses their sheep!

Seth (left) and Chris (right) busy shearing

I have yet to encounter a shearer who attempts “fast work without regard for the sheep’s welfare” a claim on PETA’s website.

Possibly because shearers are often from farming backgrounds themselves and so understand the animals they are dealing with.

They shear the sheep as if they are their own, taking extra care and time rather than rushing to “get the most sheep done”.

Sheep often move when being sheared but it is rare that shearers actually cut them.

If the sheep is injured, farmers and shearers work together to treat it immediately.

It is utter nonsense sheep are left to bleed out or shearers quickly do a ‘botch job of the stitching to save wasting time’ – every sheep is cared for on our farm without a time limit!

Shearing sheep also provides farmers with a chance to check their flocks health.

We can clearly identify which sheep is lame/has a bad bag whilst it is being sheared and so mark it with spray so that we can treat it afterwards. 

So shearing sheep helps us identify any health problems the sheep may have and treat it as soon as possible.

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You can clearly see the bag and feet with this angle

Once sheared, the wool is wrapped.

And this is what freshly sheared sheep and tups look like …

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Freshly sheared texel tups
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Freshly sheared ewes

Notice the lack of blood gushing from limbs?!

WOOL WRAPPING 

Here is a video of me showing you how to do it (not my best or quickest attempt but you get the gist).

Below is a before and after photograph of wool wrapping.

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Before and after

The wool once wrapped goes into wool bags which are then stitched and  labelled so that the British Wool Board knows where the wool has come from and who to pay!

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Once wrapped, wool gets placed into the bag
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Once the bag is full it gets stitched up
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Then we add labels

Nowadays wool does not bring a lot of profit to a farmer, especially after paying the shearers and labourers.

In fact, the average wool cheque prices for 2019/2020 had ‘halved’ due to Covid-19 global market closure, with farmers receiving an average of 32p/kg for their wool.

So the idea that sheep are shorn for ‘monetary motives’ seems bizarre, given the lack of a profit margin within in the wool industry.

The best reward sheep farmers can get from wool is this certificate!

WHY DO FARMERS SHEAR SHEEP?

Sheep farmers shear their sheep usually once a year during the summer months when the temperatures become hot.

They do this because it has great health benefits for their flock, in that shearing:

  • Prevents buildup of manure and urine that can lead to parasitic infection and flystrike- long fleeces are likely to become dirty and drag along the ground.
  • Allows adequate wool regrowth which improve the sheep’s ability to control its body temperature during extreme heat and cold conditions.
  • Creates a clean environment for newborn lambs.
  • Decreases the chance of heat stress.

It is crucial to shear sheep annually for the sake of their health and not to do so would be incredibly cruel and detrimental to the flocks health.

I hope you have found this blog post informative and let me know if you have any more questions about sheep shearing!

Off back outside enjoying their new haircut

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10 things you’ll know if you grew up on a farm

Being at home for summer has made me feel nostalgic.

Here are 10 things you will know if you grew up on a farm!

Nothing is ever a five minute job 

If they say it is then they are lying!

You’ve learned from experience that lending a ‘quick hand’ turns into a twenty minute operation followed by a list of jobs that takes you all morning to complete, making you question why you volunteered in the first place.

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Moving sheep takes longer than 5 minutes

Bale twine fixes everything 

Waterproof trousers too big? Bale twine belt.

Setting up a temporary race? Bale twine.

Lost your dog lead? Bale twine.

You’ve probably lost count of the amount of times someone has asked you for some whilst working. It has happened so often that you dream about charging. After all, it’s an essential pocket requisite that fixes almost every problem.

You can’t out run a sheep

But you can certainly try! You counted this as your daily workout as it left you out of breathe and threatening to sell the troublesome (to put it politely) ewe at auction the first chance you get.

There is no such thing as being snowed in 

Snow is no longer exciting when there is a 4×4 always on hand. But you do look pretty cool rocking up to school on your dad’s tractor.

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Dad to the rescue

Who let the ewes out? 

Field gates left open becomes a Spanish Inquisition around the kitchen table. No matter how many times you proclaimed your innocence, the blame was assigned to you and dad muttering ‘next time I’ll do the job myself’.

Days off always coincide with bad weather

Booking planned events and actually going is something of a novelty to you. Especially in summer when you are constantly on call for seasonal jobs.

Friends know from experience that you will be missing in action once the weather forecast improves as you’ll be either in the shearing shed or driving a tractor, whether you want to or not. After all, farming comes first in your household.

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Even on days off you can’t escape farming

What’s a lie in? 

Certainly something that doesn’t happen in your household with your parents considering any time after 8.30am a lie in.

And the horror (and slight envy) when university friends text you at 4pm saying ‘sorry I’ve only just woken up’ whilst you have been working hard all day.

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Love/Hate relationship with the weather man 

You developed a changeable relationship with the weather forecasts from an early age as it was the most discussed subject on the farm.

TVs were often tutted at and switched off if they stated unsuitable weather for proposed plans and there was an element of speculation surrounding upcoming forecasts. You constantly played a game of who dares win and it was typical for it to rain once you have grass down.

But no matter how many times you trolled the internet in search of a more favourable weather report it always stayed the same – or sometimes got worse! You just learned to get on with it.

Smartphone but no signal 

You have spent years searching for a certain spot in the shed where there is enough signal to send a text. In fact you have perfected the lion king scene, holding the phone up high and hoping it sends.

Yet dodgy signal still plagued your rural life and internet was a rarity. People who sent Snapchats/Instagram posts from the lambing shed simply amazed you!

Fine dining equals a trip to the local auction 

You were more than happy to accompany your dad to the auction and stand around a cold ring looking at livestock just for those auction lunches.  You developed a favouritism towards a certain auction mart cafe and believed they were second best to your mum’s roast dinner.

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Mmmmm

Those are my top ten things – if you have any please let me know below!

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