Shepherds Learn Basics of Shearing

5/17/2014 7:00 AM
By Carol Ann Gregg Western Pa. Correspondent

GROVE CITY, Pa. — Sheep owners who had never sheared a sheep participated in the recent sheep-shearing workshop organized by Extension educator Walt Bumgarner at the Carl Gadsby farm.

Gadsby has more than 100 ewes that he made available for the class. His open-faced sheep barn is set up with a large open space for shearing. The area is lit by florescent lights and the sheep are easily accessible in pens nearby.

Seasoned shearers Don Hunter of Grove City and Bob Calvert of Mercer demonstrated how to control the sheep and methodically shear it to get all the wool off in one piece if possible.

Hunter, Calvert and Bumgarner monitored the participants as they began their second evening of shearing.

These experts lent a hand and doled out advice to help the novices become more comfortable with manipulating the sheep as they sheared a year’s worth of wool from their warm bodies.

Hunter and Calvert used six different positions to hold the sheep as they removed the fleece. By controlling the ewe with their legs they were able to keep her comfortable and less likely to try to get away.

Beginning with the belly, the wool is systematically sheared until all of it has been removed. Holding the sheep with his legs allows the shearer to use one hand to control the shears and the other to hold the skin tight to prevent nicking it.

The two-day workshop began with learning about the tools used and how to care for them. Each student learned how to set up, adjust and oil the shears.

Participants were able to shear several sheep each evening to help improve their skills.

Each person also received a binder with details about how to shear and a chart that can be hung in the barn that illustrates the six positions and how to place the sheep so they are comfortable and accessible for shearing.

The workshop is designed for shepherds with small flocks who have difficulty getting professional shearers to come to their farms to shear for them.

It was offered at three locations across the state this spring, but the Grove City session was the only one to get enough response to be held.

For people who are interested in learning more about shearing, Michael Fournier, a retired Extension educator from Bucks County, has made two YouTube videos that can be helpful.

One is about the six positions to hold the sheep while shearing and the other outlines the tools that are needed and how to care for them. Search for Penn State Sheep Shearing to find the videos.

Another sheep shearing workshop is scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9 at the main Penn State campus.

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