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Shearing advice needed

2471 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Dee Dunn
I have 4 sheep (spinner flock: ramboullet, romney) and may have to shear them myself. They are more "pets" than "sheep" and will stand for vetting without problems. I'm thinking I can sheer them standing - i want to make sure to get the best length staple and least upset to the sheep. (All are veterans at shearing and will lie on their sides with an experienced shearer. If you roll them onto their butts they fight to the death but are fine on their sides.)

I'm looking for advice on electric clippers - slow is fine, used is good, the lighter the better. Do I need the machine part that nails to the wall or is the motor in the part you hold? What is the difference between a shearing head and other heads besides the knob thing? I'm guessing it rotates, but is that critical if I'm not doing speed trials?

Can I shear ramboullet or merino with a 20 tooth blade?

The shearers around here are rough, bloody and/or late.

Thanks in advance.

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I have shorn a few thousand romneys in my time and never did one get to keep her fleece by fighting! However there are a few points on this subject, once the sheep is on her butt try not to touch the legs as that just gives her something to fight against, secondly, pets and semi-pets are probably worse than large flock sheep.

The shearers around here are rough, bloody and/or late.
:haha: Now where have I heard that before!!!

Seriously though, you are looking to harvest the wool not prepare the sheep for a debutante ball so what looks rough may be better than neat. Second cuts are the issue here so if you go a bit high resist the temptation to tidy her up with another cut but rather leave that wool for next year. For the best, and most professional, look always, always, ensure the tips of your shearing equipment are sliding over the sheep's skin, this will do the finest and neatest cut. Pay particular attention to the side of the comb you can't see, this will be hidden by the wool and will easily rise up from the skin leaving an ugly clump and shortened staple.

Sorry I can't give you much advice on the equipment as I have only ever used the overhead machines with rigid drop torque tubes but I assume anything that is sold for shearing sheep will be more or less adequate.
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You can get a sheep shearing maching that ties off against the wall (or is shaft driven from a remote motor if your in NZ with a dozen or so shearers all working at once!) The regular wall mounted unit will drive a shearing handpeice through a shaft as John mentioned or through a flexible cable. They are pertty pricey (think $1000 and up). Nice to use, much easier on my wrists and arms, and if mine broke I'd replace it instantly. (I do have 200 ewes though) You don't "need" it for 4 sheep. Most people use a clipper with a motor in the handpeice. I have a Heiniger sheep clipper too but I think i liked the old Sunbeam I had before. Lister is supposed to be first rate but I don't use it enough to bother switching. Sheep shears typically use a 13 tooth comb and a 4 point cutter. You can get a 10 or 9 tooth blocking comb but I'd suggest not doing so until you're very experienced if ever. The 20 tooth is probably on a cattle clipper although you can get a shattle comb with 24 or so teeth that goes on a sheep shearing machine. The biggest difference between a cattle clipper and a sheep clipper, is the throw or sweep of the cutter. A sheep head has a wider throw (or sweep) across the comb and moves in an arc, while a cattle clipper moves side to side. The large knob is the tension and does the same job as the wing nut on a cattle head. The sheep head does not rotate rather it bolts on solidly the same as a cattle head and will likely interchange with one, if that's what you have. Mount the comb on the handpiece loosely (not too loose) and then with the cutter on loosely move it by hand across the comb so you can check the furthest point of the arc. You don't want the cutter going off the comb, otherwise it will slice the sheep's skin. You may have to snug everything up so you can power it across. Then move the comb forward and back until it is set correctly. Some combs will have a lot of room others will not, but set the comb so the cutter is shearing as far back as possible while still on the comb, so you can advance the cutter on the comb and get a fresh edge now and then. Tighten the comb on firmly. Setting the tension is tricky, start with it holding the cutter securely but not tight. Try it and then tighten it only enough to make it cut plus maybe a quarter turn more. Keep everything lubricated!! You "could" use cattle clippers but I'd suggest looking for a sheep head that will bolt to your cattle clippers (horse clippers are the same thing usually) Try a 13 point round edge comb (like the Heiniger Ovina) to start with. It is a little easier to control. Check the comb tips aren't sharp, they'll rake the skin baddly if they are. You should try to keep the shearing area of the comb flat to the skin and the skin tight, it will almost float through the fleece rather than plough through it. Do not pull the wool as you shear, you'll only drag the skin into the shears. Rough bloody shearing is what amateurs do (like me and you) real pros make the task look almost fluid.
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Seriously though, you are looking to harvest the wool not prepare the sheep for a debutante ball so what looks rough may be better than neat.

Thank you for the tips - I'm trying to muster up the courage to try my hand on these prizewinning fleeces. When I said the shearers around here were rough, I meant they are needlessly aggressive - slamming the sheep on their butts instead of rolling. I have a sweetheart of a ram with a bad knee and I'm tired of watching them jerk that leg even when I mark it with a bandanna.

I don't mind the tufty look - better that than second cuts for sure, but I won't tolerate abuse.

Thanks again for the info.
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