A couple of shearing questions

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by 6e, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    We've just started shearing and we were wondering, what's the proper length of wool to leave on the sheep? Do you shear all the way to the skin? On the couple we've done we've left about 1/2", but that doesn't look like enough.

    Also, after only two sheep and our blades are dull already. They're gummed up with a lot of lanolin. Can anyone give us some detailed instructions on sharpening the blades and on keeping the lanolin build up off between sheep? I drove all over today and no body sharpens sheep shears. I can't imagine buying new blades every couple of sheep!

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    You're supposed to shear close to the skin, there's a nice clean layer there with a kind of oily film. Its a sweet spot you could say. The blades will need frequent cleaning, and re-oiling. lots of prefered oil recipees, I just use Heinigers clipper oil, which is fairly expensive but works so well. I sharpen my own blades, on an aluminum wheel, with a coarse and fine grit. It can be tricky to find someone who will try sheep blades, but they should last for dozens at a time and hundreds over thier life.
     

  3. Sprout

    Sprout Well-Known Member

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    Acctualy it's not the lonolin thier gummed up with. It's dirt. If anything you want lanolin on your blades it acts as a natural lubricant. That's why you don't have to oil as often. If your sheep's wool is very dirty you may want to wash them and then shear. It gets so dusty from the last rain to the first that I have to wash mine.
     
  4. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    You should be shearing with the shears at the skin. If you want to leave a bit of wool, there are special combs called "cover combs" you can use that will leave some wool, but you still keep the combs right at the skin.
    You can send your blades out to be sharpened. I've seen ads for different places that provide this service. Midstates Woolgrowers will do it - check with them on how to mail, and the price, etc. They have a website.

    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     
  5. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    Ross is so right, shear close to the skin for a variety of reasons including all Ross mentioned and also best fleece harvest. If you have an 'oops' and you do cut up into the wool dont worry about it, you dont serve any useful purpose by going back and cutting off the little piece except make the sheep look nice. I think one should try to develop the best style of shearing you can as "cutting air" dulls the clippers and I think encourages overheating too.

    No matter how dirty and gritty the sheep gets it is unlikely that much will reach the skin, I have shorn plenty of sheep so dirty and matted that the "fleece" dropped to the floor and lay there like a crumpled hearth rug but they were all clean on the skin side. Granted, I suppose this could be influenced by breed and your mileage may vary.

    I feel the time the blades stay sharp is as much influenced by the clock as the number of sheep shorn. It is a long time since I did any shearing but if I recall correctly a fresh cutter needed changing after an hour and the comb ater two hours or maybe we only changed the comb twice a day.
     
  6. dazza

    dazza Member

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    OMG John Hill you only change combs twice a day? How many are you shearing? what breed that is amazing!

    Do you have a brush? It is like a big shoe polish brush with a metal scraper thing set in one end. Use it to scrape the dirt off then dip the brush in water and scrub it off. Re oil freqently. One fella I work with near on drowns the place in oil, us rousies have to be careful not to slip over!!

    Cutters generally only last 15min, less in very dirty sheep (my partner once used 40 combs and nearly 100 cutters one day, very dirty crossbred lambs). Pro shearers can get up to 6 sheep from a cutter, a learner (like me) might get 1 1/2 sheep.

    Michaela
     
  7. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    Well Dazza here is someone who has done an entire thesis on the subject :) Thesis on steel for shearing combs He says 2-10 sheep for the cutter, 4 to 20 for the comb.

    The breeds I shore were mostly corridale, border leicester, romney. Some southdowns too.

    These sheep were run on green pastures with little or no sand in the fleece, in fact fleeces were very clean close to the skin. There were always some dirty sheep and severely felted fleeces in the mobs but no more than two or three in a day.

    I dont recall that I ever needed to use the brush, plenty of oil was the rule though. At the end of the day all combs and cutters were washed in boiling water straight out of the engine, laid on a spread out sack and scrubbed with the brush then rinsed again before grinding.

    My typical tally for 8 hours was 100 sheep so that was about 12 sheep for the cutter and about 24 sheep for the comb. Others in the shed were putting about 250 each across the board but I dont recall them having to change gear more often than I did. But like I said, it was quite a while ago (42 years actually!) and I am quite happy for anyone to reduce my numbers if they wish.