Shearing with scissors

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by Maura, Jun 5, 2005.

  1. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Anyone done this? My shearer is way behind schedule and my sheep are miserable. So, yesterday I began clipping myself. My ram is the only one who will stand still and let me do this. So far I have his neck clipped, half his back, the front of his chest and now working down both shoulders. My goodness, this is time consuming. We used to have a standard poodle, so at least I have some experience in avoiding nipping the skin. It has been raining and a tornado is on the way so I may not get out again to work on him today.

    Another question in the same vein: Can a sheep with a full coat tolerate temps in the eighties? I know some people let their sheep go two or more years without being sheared. Obviously, this is neglect, but how do these sheep stand the heat?
     
  2. woolyfluff

    woolyfluff Well-Known Member

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    shade and a lot of water BUT NOT INDOORS THAT IS THE BEST WE CAN SAY
     

  3. betty modin

    betty modin Well-Known Member

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    I have one ewe that has not been sheared because the lady I got her from "hadn't gotten to it yet". She's not only miserable but is a primitive breed and has started to cast a fine coat, turning it into cots and mats. I'm sure she's uncomfortable. Fortunately we've had cool rainy weather, with snow in the forecast for 1000 feet above me. I'm scheduled to take a shearing workshop the end of the month and am watching her closely until then. I may follow your lead and use the scissors as the fleece is no longer usable as it is. I plan to be ready before lambing season next year. betty
     
  4. sheep tamer

    sheep tamer former HT member

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    I have an aversion to loud, noisy shearing
    gizmos, so I use scissors. The easiest to
    use are the fiskars with the soft grip and
    spring-open feature...not the full length
    blades but the shorter 2-3" blades work
    well for me...I usually put the sheep up
    on my milking stanchion and have a couple
    plastic bags handy...one for the best locks,
    one for lesser, and I just drop any poopy
    or tags w/vm on the ground. Learned to
    do this from a shepherdess/weaver who
    also did not like mechanical shearing. You
    get faster with time and practice, hardly
    ever nick the skin, and don't have to skirt
    later. If you are concered about leaving
    the sheep with enough wool for its own
    insulation, you just don't cut it as close.
    I start along the spine behind the neck
    and work down each side...giving a bit
    of grain or hay now and then and talking
    lots to the sheep. Some cooperate more
    than others...and music playing on a radio
    nearby helps keep them tame. :)
     
  5. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Maura and Betty,
    Scissors are a long, drawn out method of shearing a sheep as you are finding out Maura. The only time I use them or hand shears is to clean up a flystruck sheep. The rest are done by a shearer using a noisy shearing gizmo who can shear 30 full fleece sheep in just over an hour. Much less stressful for the sheep to be shorn in less than two minutes than several hours, if not days.

    If your shearing looks as though it could happen fairly soon, just do a belly and crutch with your scissors as these are areas that can cause the most problems. Take all the wool off around and above the tail and down the back legs, then tip the sheep on to his back and take it off from the brisket through to the back legs. No matter when sheep are shorn, it's also a good idea to do a belly and crutch before lambing too.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  6. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thank you for your replies. I'm going to have to heavily treat the others to shear this way. I hadn't thought of doing a crutch for comfort. I started Santiago on his neck. My shearer called this morning. Another shearer, who was doing 5,000 head, moved out west to shear this year which is why he is way behind schedule, trying to pick up some of the 5,000. He will be out the 22nd. I'm still going to finish up Santiago and hopefully get the others crutched. Three of my sheep are a primative breed and do not have long wool, but they are still uncomfortable. One was very stressed this spring because I kept her separated from the others for a long time and she shed most of her wool. She is the happiest right now.

    Yes, it is easy to seperate the wool. I've been washing it as I'm taking it off. Got behind schedule yesterday due to the tornadoes (hit about three miles north but all we got was welcome wind and rain.

    I have been considering buying loud electric shears and just doing it myself. But, Doug is so gentle with the sheep, as well as fast and inexpensive, that it doesn't seem to be worth it.
     
  7. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    I did the scissor thing last year :haha: Yes, well, I've graduated to hand shears, and they're a wee bit faster and easier, but the other day a guy stopped and asked who was shearing, because he just finished doing some sheep down the road....I told him I'd call in the fall!
     
  8. Scomber

    Scomber Well-Known Member

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    We sheered our Jacob rams with scissors. The first one was our first try at it, as we wanted to keep the fleece, but not the ram, and he was scheduled to go promptly. We have a neighbor who said he had electric clippers we could borrow, but they were at the sharpeners. So we wrestled our boy down, and I started clipping. Katey held his head. After a while we flipped him over to do the other side. I did a lousy job, but didn't nick him much. I left a fair amount on him, which is good because his new home is inland, and it was still cooler there. But it was uneven and looked a mess.

    Our second ram (the one we've kept) was starting to shed. The fleece was starting to part just off the skin, and I knew it was time when I tried to grab him and got a fist full of fleece but no sheep. Again, we wrestled him down, and Katey held his head while I clipped. Between having some experience with the first one, and the fleece coming loose anyway, we did a pretty good job. It would have been better if I had picked a cleaner spot to start with, but I'd slip in the pointier part of the scissors and snip close to the skin. We had the job done in a bit over a half hour.

    I've seen hand clippers that work on a squeezing motion, but have business ends much like the electric sort. Unfortunately these seem to be lightweight items suitable for clipping dogs or cattle for show, rather than heavy fleeced sheep for speed. We have a set of hand sheers on order, but I'm still not clear on how they're that much better than scissors. We may find out soon. We're negotiating on four shetlands.

    I'd like to know if anyone has a web site to recommend that shows the efficient way to shear using hand sheers. I know pros have patterns they use with the electric clippers. Surely there must have been similar patterns of work in the old days of hand-shears-only.

    Dan
     
  9. Shahbazin

    Shahbazin Well-Known Member

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    I have used 1) horse clippers, 2) electric clippers (Stablemate, from Premier), 3) hand shears (the rigged ones from Midstates Wool: http://www.midstateswoolgrowers.com/ ), 4) the spring loaded Fiskars scissors, & 5) rooing (hand plucking) on my Shetland flock.
    1) - took forever, but only had 2 lambs, & nearly impossible to hurt them
    2) - pretty fast, but clogs on the rise sometimes, & I still hand shear around belly & other sensitive spots - doing 12- 20 now
    3) - a little trickier to use, but almost as fast as electric shears, if you practise a bit
    4) - not as efficient as hand shears, but more fool-proof, ie harder to snip off a bit of sheep
    5) - can only roo primitive breeds that get a "break" in their fleece; not all sheep shed at the same time, so you can only do the ones that are "ready" - I usually only roo my rams, because I often wait until summer to get the wool off the rams

    Takes me about 1/2 hour (more or less) a sheep, clippers or shears; catch it, lead it to the stand, boost the sheep up, shear, boost off, deworm, vaccinate, & trim hooves. I shear right before lambing - I try for 3 weeks before, have done them as late as the day before, so I handle them carefully; I'm a handspinner, & sell to others, so am particular about my fleeces, & also like to take photos of my sheep, so am particular about the sheep's appearance too :) I did just take over an hour to hand shear an Angora goat who suddenly started itching & matted himself to the skin, within less than a week - he's as slick & pretty as a newly groomed Schnauzer dog now, though. I highly recommend Kevin Ford's book "Shearing Day" for blade (hand) shearing techniques. A lot of sheep & spinning/wool supply places sell it.
     
  10. stellie

    stellie Well-Known Member

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    We've a ram who's fleece is now about 8-10 inches long. And he's marvelously cool through his inner fleece (which is the interiour 4 inches). Wool is a wonderful medium that allows australian sheep to withstand 110-degree weather in full-fleece! It breathes and allows wind to go through but also takes the heat on the outside, letting the wearer (sheep!) stay body-temperature on the inside.

    We cannot shear our sheep right now due to both everything going on OTHER than sheep shearing and the fact that mum has been out of work/unable to do anything 'heavy' since February due to shoulder injury in both arms. (Da's a full-time non-farmer with part-time feeding duties, I'm a full-time college student and my little brother has just graduated high school, awaiting college and has had an almost full-time job for three years.) We'll be either scissors-shearing one by one (myself) or attempting to rig the over-head machine and pen everyone up for shearing on two days (I'm rusty with the machine and it has a slight temperment) -- 30-ish sheep -- before the end of July.

    With Virginia's current temperatures, though, I'm not sure what the end of July will bring. All I know is that I've 30-ish sheep to have done by then and about three more to do for 4-Hers the end of August. And all of them will more than likely be done with scissors (fiskars shears with blades of 3" -- the small pair -- with an average of 15-20 minutes per sheep full-fleece).
     
  11. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    How much do overhead shears cost? Is it worth getting them for only a dozen or so sheep? I'm thinking of taking a shearing course and unsure if I should take hand or machine shearing- don't see wanting to shear for OTHERS just myself but quicker is better...
     
  12. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jenn,
    The shearing machine itself is usually the cheap part even if bought new. Over here they can often be picked up second hand at a very reasonable price. It's the hand piece that can cost the money. Because I live in a country of sheep, older second-hand hand pieces that are still serviceable can be picked up quite cheaply but I somehow doubt that you will find too many available where you are. If buying new you will possibly find that the hand piece is twice the cost of the machine and you still have to purchase cutters and combs and well as the ability to be able to sharpen them.

    I have my own shearing machine and hand piece but my shearers prefer to use their own hand pieces.

    If you have the time to do so, I think you should do both courses as I think you will find them invaluable. It would also be a good place to pick up inside knowledge on what gear to buy and where and at the very least the tutors should be able to point you in the right direction.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  13. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    Jenn,

    I generally agree with everything Ronney says and I would certainly prefer to use the overhead equipment and a handpiece that has been in the family for a couple of generations.

    However you may find an electric handpiece more suited to your purposes, I see you live in England and I am sure you can find good ones there.

    My main objection to the electric handpiece is the weight of it, or at least they used to be very heavy when I was last shearing but on the other hand it does take a little skill and training to get your moves right to shear on the overhead gear without getting tangled up or out of reach of the down tubes etc. My brother, who is still in the game, tells me the newer electrics are not heavy at all and perform almost as well as the overheads. I doubt they are cheap and of course the combs and cutters have always seem very expensive!

    I never had a formal course and it took me a while to break some of the bad habits I picked up in the eary days, so yes if a course if available you should take it. I suggest that once you have learned the sequence you will be able to shear a sheep in about 5 minutes which is much less stress on both of you than any informal shearing technique.

    John