Wool processing involves many steps from the initial shearing of the sheep to the final product of roving and yarn.
Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing doesn’t hurt a sheep. It’s just like getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears or shearing machines.
Some sheep are sheared manually with scissors or hand blades. While some farmers shear their own sheep, many hire professional sheep shearers. In many countries, including the United States, there is a growing shortage of qualified sheep shearers. Many states hold annual sheep shearing schools.
A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and will remove the fleece in one piece. The world record for shearing sheep is 839 lambs in 9 hours by Rodney Sutton of New Zealand (2000) and 720 ewes in 9 hours by Darin Forde of New Zealand. The most sheep shorn in an 8 hour period using hand blades is 50 by Janos Marton of Hungary (2003).
Sheep are usually sheared once per year, usually before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Feeder lambs are sometimes sheared to make them more comfortable during the summer. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.
High quality fleeces should be skirted. Skirting is when the undesirable parts of the fleece are removed from the rest of the fleece. Undesirables include bellies, top knots, and tags.
Sheep Shearing Videos
Merino Blade Shearing – Manual Method
Merino Sheep Shearing – Electric Method