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Monday, April 26, 2010

Shear Excitement

with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Wren before being sheared
Photos by Sue Weaver
Last week a man came to shear our sheep. It was exciting! Uzzi and I watched from a distance. We’re glad we don’t grow wool.

The shearer’s name is Paul Ahrens. He’s been shearing sheep for 30 years. He travels all around and shears thousands of sheep every year. He’s fast and good at it too!

He uses shears powered by a motor that hangs on the fence, so his shears aren’t bulky like Mom and Dad’s and he uses the New Zealand method to shear sheep.

Paul Ahrens shears Wren

The New Zealand method is also called the Bowen method because it was invented by a man named Godfrey Bowen and his brother, Ivan.

They discovered that they could shear quickly and accurately by moving the sheep through a series of five positions that stretch its skin so the skin won’t get cut. Ivan celebrated his 90th birthday by shearing a sheep in 2.41 minutes. Wow!

Before there were electric shears, people sheared with hand shears they called blades.

In 1892, an Australian named Jackie Howe sheared 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes using blades. He also set a weekly record, shearing 1,437 sheep in 44 hours and 30 minutes. That record still stands.

Wren after being sheared
The fastest shearer nowadays is a man named Brendon Boyle. In 2007, he sheared 973 sheep in 24 hours, averaging 1.14 minutes per sheep.

Our sheep started out woolly and ended up with cool summer dos. They didn’t like it, but their fleeces keep growing unless they’re shorn, so they knew it had to be done.

Our sheep had 3 to 5 inches of wool to be shorn. That’s nothing compared to a famous Merino sheep named Shrek. Shrek hid out on Bendigo Station in New Zealand for 6 years while his wool just grew and grew. When he was shorn on New Zealand TV, his fleece weighed 60 pounds and was almost 15 inches long!

Have you ever seen anyone shear a sheep? You can! Click here to watch people learning to shear at a Vermont sheep-shearing school (try to say that really fast 10 times) using electric shears and old-fashioned blades.

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Shear Excitement

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Reader Comments
We used to shear 5000 ewes and 200 hundred, and 2000 wethers. Would take around 2 weeks...all on contract rates and double contract for rams......

151 bales of ewe wool, 60 bales of wether wool, 6 bales of ram wool. all graded in to AAAM, AAM, Broken wool, cotti wool, bellies, dags.
Noni, International
Posted: 7/30/2013 4:59:27 AM
They look so much better without all that wool. Love the summer cut.
christine, st augustine, FL
Posted: 5/2/2010 5:08:53 AM
That is so cool. (: I would have never guessed that there were records for sheep-shearing.
Sarah, Verdigris, OK
Posted: 5/1/2010 4:50:16 PM
Cherie, Mom used to have it made into blankets but postage to Canada has gotten too expensive to do that any more (it has to go by Priority Rate nowadays!), so she doesn't know what to do now.

She saved Rumbler and Baamadeus' fleeces and wants to find someone who will spin them together with a pillowcase full of wool she saved from Baasha two years ago. Then she'll have to find someone else to knit it into a hat (or something like that).

My mom is fibercraft-challenged. She wants to learn to felt with the sheep's wool but hasn't had time to learn. Anyway, that's what she says.
Martok, Mammoth Spring, AR
Posted: 4/28/2010 10:27:57 AM
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