Shearing: DIY?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by lisarichards, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. lisarichards

    lisarichards Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    383
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Location:
    NH
    Do you shear your sheep on your own or hire it out?

    How did you learn?

    Any books or videos that you'd recommend for a beginner?
     
  2. kabri

    kabri Almst livin the good life

    Messages:
    1,126
    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    W. Washington State
    I bought my husband this video: video and he now shears our sheep and sometimes for other folks as well. We bought used shearers from a friend. The first year (prior to the video) he tried it cold. Got the job done, but it took FOREVER, and the wool was unusable. It makes a huge difference if you shear body areas in the proper area. It goes way faster, and less 2nd cuts that way. He watched that video many times, and each spring he gets it out again for a refresher. Especially imiportant is the shearer's body position, how you hold the sheep, and the sheeps body position. The money for that tape was money WELL spent!!!!
     

  3. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Messages:
    3,736
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Location:
    VT
    I sheared "cold" my first spring... didn't hold my sheep down but waited until they'd lambed and had something WAY more interesting than me taking the fleece off to care about. Put them in a small space, sat on a milk crate and clipped away by hand. The following fall, did it the same way again... small space, unrestrained sheep, bucket, and hand clippers. Have only one sheep that won't cooperate, and if she throws twins again this year and raises them nicely, she'll get to live. If she doesn't... she's ewe-burger. Got nice fleeces every time, even from my ram lamb, who stood nicely while my husband tickled his nose and let me clip the whole fleece right off of him.
     
  4. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    15,981
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Michigan's thumb
    I hire a man. He's very gentle with the sheep, patient with me, and for an extra dollar he trims their hooves. He also tells me that they look healthy, which makes me feel good. He charges $5 per sheep ($6 with hoof trim) $25 minimum, and I also give him a carton or two of fresh eggs and homemadesoap.
     
  5. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

    Messages:
    491
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    IMHO shearing is a skill worth learning. Doing it the 'proper way', sheep sitting on her but etc, is the easiest and quickest way one you learn the skill. Good for the sheep too as they dont like being turned upside down for long, good for the wool as the method goes a long way towards separating fleece from dags, locks and belly wool.

    I am not sure it is so good for the shearer as however you do it is always hard work!

    The Doug Rathke video looks like a good investment.

    (When my pension comes through I am going to buy a Harley and travel the US shearing homesteader's flocks, not sure of the price but it will likely include home baked scones!)
     
  6. Slev

    Slev Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,540
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2003
    Location:
    Illinois
    I lost a sheep a few years ago, waiting for that jerk that said he would come out and shear my sheep. At that point, I got my Listers out and did the one thing I hate worse than brussel sprouts! I'd rather pay some one to shear and sit there and drink a beer watching them. Sure it adds to the cost of the beer, but then, I'm the one drinking and not shearing! So anyway, I had to give that up and shear my own. I'm left handed and so many people show only a right-handed way, there is a difference. What I do is turn my stock tank upside down, and have my son and nephew hold them. Less back ache for me and the oversized stand gives enough support to the sheep that it does not fuss much. I trim off all the belly wool first then roll it to the left starting at the upper leg and butt and work my way around, up to the neck and air for the ear! At the last second, I cup the ear in my other hand and then roll it on the other side and do the same.

    You can always check out and see if a shearing class is offered by your university, if not you can come to Illinois and take theirs. I'm just not into the Australian method.
     
  7. kabri

    kabri Almst livin the good life

    Messages:
    1,126
    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    W. Washington State
    Hey Slev, what a great idea with the stock tank!!!! One of the hardest things about shearing is how much bending over the shearer has to do, and I saw instantly by your description how well that would work! Thanks for the tip, DH will be really happy to try that this year!
     
  8. Slev

    Slev Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,540
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2003
    Location:
    Illinois
    Alright Kabri,

    Want another secret tip? You guys listen up. My friend was doing rather well at the KY NAILE (North American International Livestock Expo) Sheep Dog Trial, winning lots of money so he bought one of the blue expensive hoof trimming stands for about $780 bucks. Well when I got home I decided I couldn't afford paying that much, so one day when I got home I broke out the 12 oz. "Brain in a Can" It only took 2 beers for me to figure this out, of course perfection took a few more...

    Take a 55 Gal. plastic drum and cut it in half, LENGTHWISE (you can do this by following the seam with either a circular saw, or sawzall) Next, at one end, cut a wedge shape angle about the thickness of your average size sheeps neck, kind of like this: )( this will wedge their head in place and keep it from moving so much. 3rd, if you wanted to, cut some C shaped swirls in the other end, to lock their back feet into place, for some of the bigger breeds you may have to add such a contraption as the legs will not conform that much. (Maybe a couple of bungies on each side looped. Then I first used some scrap 1X3 wood and made a triangle frame for each side and used enough cross pieces to give it support and strength. 4th, connect the plastic barrell a little over mid way to the triangles. You might have to drill several holes up and down in order to size it for your size of sheep. The concept being you want enough of the sheeps weight to be on the back tilted part to it stays in place when you tilt it back. Next you need a cross piece to stop the action of the tilt, so put that in on the back side of the triangles. Also don't forget to put one low in the front to keep it from over flipping! I later used bungies which I found more adjustment. And remember that other half of the barrell? I cut it in half again, this time across and added it to the top by the head, as I found even with the neck support they started flopping when their head was not supported better. I suppose you could use a wide thin board or something, but heck, I had it there and was drinking a few beers so what the heck! Later I added lawnmower wheels to make it roll around.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, you have just been introduced to "The Riddler" Sheep Flipper! I took the proto type over to my friends place and they both started laughing! As I assembeled it, my one friend went and got a sheep, he got his ram at 300+ pounds! backed it up to the flipper where it's back feet were just touching the barrell. Grabbed under the chin and lifted it right off it's front feet. The weight of the sheep went to its back and the butt slid right into the barrell, contined the head until it wedged nicely in the head lock and it eaised on back. The ram just laid there and my friends were shocked!

    It works great for trimming feet, shaving bellies and if you lift the back legs a bit, you can go part way up their rump. Unlike the ones you pay hundreds for, it even works well for those horned beasts, all except those crazy 4 horned Jacobs...! I used to have some pictures around, but don't know where they are now. I probably should not have posted this here, but Kabri was so nice I felt I had to offer something more...

    The point behind all of this is to say, with a few beers and imagination there is no stopping you from inventing anything you feel so inspired to create, the key ingrediant though was the beer.
     
  9. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    13,084
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    Ontario
    Cool idea!! I've always simply flipped them on their rump; but that was fine at 28, workable at 38 but 48 is approaching and its already slipped from workable to just do-able in two short years. I try to put some time between creating (beer) and constructing (air nailer) as I find I use a lot less nails and bandages. That's another thing thats slipped in the last few years.
     
  10. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    13,084
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    Ontario
    Oh to answer the original post, I have done both. If you can hire a good shearer one that works quietly and steady then its a pleasure to pay, if he's erratic and has a temper then you're better off doign it yourself. I'm slow and not as good as i should be, shear with the ewe on her rump and have learned the most important thing is to have sharp blades and decent help catching and clearing the fleeces. I have a video but forget the name I'll try to find it.
     
  11. CountryFried

    CountryFried Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    144
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Slev.... you're a riot !! All the talk about the brussel sprouts and "Brain in a Can", I needed a good laugh. :haha: Not to mention the good info on building the sheep flipper. I'll get right on it. Always fun to read your posts !

    The first year we TRIED shearing was after my dad did his few sheep for the first time also. Little did we know we should change blades. They were so dull that poor sheep wondered if it'd be there all night.

    Of course I had the video on how to shear right, but nothing was cooperating. I grabbed the first sheep we did and set her on her behind. The first blow I cut her, but good. Then she was airborne (rightly so), and my arm went with her. I'm thinking most parts of me were dislocated after we bumbled so much. But hey, I'm always up for a challenge. And most of learning is not being afraid of trying , to which a person will make mistakes ...... just learn from them.

    The second year we tried it, had good clippers , several new blades.....BUT they tore up on the first sheep we were shearing. ( Small piece broke near the blades, due to too much man-handling on son's part.) O.k. In with the hand shears. After about 6 sheep we were more than over it. I sincerely believe it's our luck...." If it weren't for BAD luck I'd have no luck at all " (Hee Haw show)

    I'll keep everyone posted as to how this year turns out ! :D I'm sure there are more success stories that won't discourage you , to be posted.

    Sherry
     
  12. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

    Messages:
    491
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Ross, yes I recognise that age thing too!

    I wish I could find the article but there was a report of a shortage of shearers in Australia. There were five shearers working at one shed visited by the reporter and when he asked the owner how many they were shearing in a day the reply was something like "Not as many as they used to, the average age of the shearers is 62"

    My father shore his own flock of a few hundred well into his 60's.

    I think limbering up and stretch exercises for a couple of weeks prior to shearing makes that first sheep much easier. Also the shearing environment is very important, in my opinion you need a wooden floor (sheet of plywood over concrete would be OK I guees) and to wear sneakers, unlike some pictures I have seen of people struggling to work on a tarp and wearing boots.
     
  13. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,832
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    Location:
    Washington
    All I can add is to NOT try shearing on a day when everything else has been a disaster. You know the days I'm talking about - there's no coffee and the stove catches on fire when you try to make eggs (fire extinguishers make one heck of a mess), then the tractor battery explodes. The kind of day you really should spend hiding under the bed.

    I stumbled out one door with a concussion and the sheep stumbled out of the other door. We just didn't have anything to do with each other for a good week or so.
     
  14. Shahbazin

    Shahbazin Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    395
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2002
    I'e always sheared my own, as I've a small flock, use my fleeces for handspinning (so am very picky about results), & often shear *very* close to lambing. It's too hard to find someone who can be scheduled for clear weather, will do small flocks, & who's careful with the animals (my goal is zero cuts, which I usually achieve). Of course, I'm as slow as molasses :) But who cares, I can do a dozen sheep in a weekend, including vaccinations & hoof trims, plus skirt fleeces, with the sheep standing nice & comfy on a stand (so I don't have to bend over - I have short sheep). I have some electric shears (Stablemate, from Premier - they sell another brand now, but it's basically the same thing), but increasingly use handshears, & am possibly transitioning to just using hand shears, as it's about the same amount of time, if you're being careful about 2nd cuts. I know of folks in Scotland who do several hundred with handshears. A really interesting book is Shearing Day, by Kevin Ford (he has a column in Sheep! magazine - this mag also sells his book http://www.sheepmagazine.com/). Lots of excellent info on blade shearing, how to, history of, etc. For comparison of speed, he says that experieinced blade shearers can do about 90-100 head a day, machine shearers, 120-130 per day, but with favorable conditions, the amounts can go up to 150 & 200, respectively. Plus, if you do your own, less biosecurity worries as well.
     
  15. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,799
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2004
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shahbazin, what kind of hand shears do you use and where did you find them? With as few sheep as I have, and in the middle of the city, I think I may have to learn to shear them myself. Since mine are small (Shetlands) too, I like the idea of using a stand. Do you think starting out with a bad back mean I should reconsider?
     
  16. Shahbazin

    Shahbazin Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    395
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2002
    I got the fully rigged shears, plus a whetstone & holster from Midstates Woolgrowers
    http://www.midstateswoolgrowers.com/
    I think it was around $40 for everything. Mine are shetlands too :) I use the stand, as it's a killer to bend over them, either in the traditional shearing position, or standing tied. I got my stand used, but it'd be easy to make one, or even new ones aren't too $$ (mine is the small collapsable style).
     
  17. lisarichards

    lisarichards Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    383
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Location:
    NH
    We have Shetlands (6) and Icelandics (7) -- can you describe the stand you use?

    I ordered that video, but it hasn't come in yet. We bought electric clippers from Premier. I'm thinking we'll use the back deck, which is the only clean and dry space we'll have, assuming I start shovelling the three feet of snow off of it soon.

    (We don't have a barn yet.)
     
  18. Shahbazin

    Shahbazin Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    395
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2002
  19. lisarichards

    lisarichards Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    383
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Location:
    NH
    Bumping with our first time shearing report.

    What a disaster! We got the Premier 3000S, got the video recommended in this thread, got a couple of friends and our daughter and her boyfriend to come over for sheap wrangling and moral support.

    Halfway through the very first sheep, the cutter retainer on the shearer broke in half. The guys tried to rig a washer to serve the same purpose, but no go. Premier is going to replace the part under warranty, but it sure didn't help yesterday. We finished the sheep with kitchen shears, and she's the most pitiful looking thing! What a horrible job she got. It'll all grow out, but the other sheep are definitely laughing and pointing.
     
  20. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    13,084
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    Ontario
    Doesn't everybodies first efforts end in disaster? My several hundreth efforts are hardly sparkling examples of wool harvesting but it does improve little by little.