Sheep Shearing Nicks and Cuts

While the topic of accidental injuries is often mentioned, very little seems to be offered on how to minimize the occurrence. First off I should say that the occasional nick or cut is almost unavoidable, though it is almost always the shearer’s fault and usually due to a lack of control of the animal, the machine or blade position. Often times other factors like exhaustion, frustration or dull blades can play a role. One needs to remember the animal is scared and often exhausted itself and losing your temper can only contribute to a greater likelihood of more nicks and cuts, so attention should be given to your state of mind and the animal’s behavior.

The areas most prone to a problem are areas where wrinkles and creases or folds occur, this includes the neck, the area under and around the elbow, the tail and the softer underbelly where the skin is thin and the nipples are (you want to keep the full comb flat against skin, not go up narrow folds). None of these are especially troublesome if everything is going well and the animal is calm and well controlled, but things the shearer do can contribute to problems, – pulling or twisting the skin creating a fold or crease will allow skin into the space between the comb’s teeth. Abrasions and nicks are common and utterly unavoidable, even on flat areas where you have good control and keeping the skin flat, but cuts and serious abrasions can be minimized if enough patience is exhibited.

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Sheep Shearing Blade Basics

Perhaps the one subject that I found most difficult to learn about was blade set-up and alignment. There is precious little out there on proper blade set-up and operation. Once you start out shearing you will learn just how important this is, – while it is inevitable that you will nick and cut sheep, a great deal of that inevitability rests upon proper blade set-up.

First set of pictures below shows the two elements of a blade:

The Comb:

Sheep Shearing Machines

Once you have decided upon shearing your own sheep, the first important step is choosing what method you prefer. To a large degree this will come down to how many sheep you own or plan on raising. For a small number you might choose hand shears, which is popular with native shearers and some old-timers. We have never actually used this method though we have hired Navajo shearers that have and I can tell you that unless you have a strong back and a lot of endurance (young) this is probably not a practical option. Mostly this methods only advantage is it is inexpensive and doesn’t rely upon power.

Shearing and Wool

   

Every spring brings with it the most important (and often dreaded) task a sheep-reeve (shepherd) faces, the sheering and the harvesting of wool. Nothing in sheep rearing is more important than understanding and practicing shearing; it is the cornerstone to any profitable sheep ranch. The task of shearing can be a little intimidating at first, it is a physically demanding and often an exhausting activity and there are some unpleasant aspects to the process, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives once you become accustomed to the process.

Rams

Integral to the profitability of sheep raising is breeding and selling off of unproductive animals, this is even more critical when dealing with rams and males, – simply put they consume more than they could ever bring in and they are by their nature aggressive and counterproductive to a peaceful flock.

Making Friends With Your Sheep

Making friends with your sheep is very important. When they trust you it is easier to work with them, such as when you have to catch them for shearing, medication, etc.

Sheep are incredibly skittish creatures, it can be very difficult to earn their trust enough for them to be at ease with you.  However, we have found a number of ways to develop a relationship where a measure of familiarity and trust can be had; though in some cases no such bond is possible.  Some individual sheep have a well-developed fear and suspicion of everything you do and little can be done to change this condition.