Wool sheep require shearing once or twice a year. Their fleece is collected in many parts of the world and used for wool, felt, or other products. In some areas the price for a fleece is very low and they are not worth selling but the sheep should still be sheared for their own welfare or they suffer under a thick coat.
Shearers often charge by the sheep when shearing on smaller hobby farms, and may charge by the hour when shearing on large farms.
Sheep shearers have to be able to flip sheep over so they sit down on their rump for shearing. This requires a bit of strength but involves a technique that will work for most people. Smaller people will have a harder time with the larger sheep breeds, so you may want to consider your physical build in relationship to this career. There is a lot of bending over so being a short, but strong, person is best. It is not exclusive to men, but most shearers are male.
In Australia, and areas where mulesing (a barbaric act in the opinion of this author) is allowed, a shearer may be asked to assist in that too.
How to Learn How to Shear a Sheep
Some people learn sheep shearing in 4H, a livestock youth group, some are self taught, but many attend weekend (or 1 week long) classes at an agricultural college. These classes are often held in the spring. In a sheep shearing class students learn how to handle sheep correctly to avoid injuring them, how to sit the sheep in position for shearing, and how to remove the fleece so it is marketable.
Shearing can be done with hand shearers or electric ones, most sheep shearers use electric shears.
Supplies needed to be a Sheep Shearer:
- Shears – either electric, or hand shears
- Replacement blades
- Clipper oil
- Clipper spray
- Extension cords
- Coveralls – optional
- Reliable Vehicle
- Blade Sharpening Equipment
About Being a Sheep Shearer
Most sheep shearers work in the spring and can be very busy going from farm to farm depending on the number of sheep in the area. In some areas sheep are sometimes sheared again in the early fall. A good shearer can shear a sheep in a matter of minutes. The fleece should be removed in one piece with few second cuts. Sometimes small cuts do happen to the sheep, but being sloppy is never good.
In some areas there are competitions; who can shear a sheep the fastest, who can shear the most sheep in a certain time limit.
Authors Note: When we first moved to our hobby farm we had a shearer come, he charged $3 per sheep, as we started switching to hair sheep we had fewer wool sheep, so he charged $5 per sheep, at that time I just started trimming my few remaining wool sheep myself.