It’s shearing day! This is one of the most important days of the year for your fiber animals. It’s a beautiful and interesting process, and it’s a time when you can both appreciate the fiber that your animal has grown all year and can have a really close look at their body condition.
What happens at your farm before the shearer arrives can set up your shearing day for success. Here are tips to be best prepared.
- Have your animals penned and dry before shearer arrives.
- Test electricity beforehand.
- Watch the weather.
- Fast sheep (no feed, no hay, no pasture – water is OK) for at least 12 hours prior to shearing. (no grain for other animals is recommended).
- Prepare the shearing area: it should be clean and flat, with good lighting.
- Have bags ready and labelled.
- Tell us your preferences before we start.
- Be prepared to pay at the time services are rendered.
- Keep the shearing area quiet and safe.
- Be there with your animals.
- √ YES Your animals are locked into a small space such as a barn stall or small paddock. It’s even nicer if the camelids are already haltered.
x NO Animals are running loose in the field. Animals are in a huge barn and bouncing off of the walls and/or fighting with each other. Different sets of animals are in different barns far away from each other (necessitating setting up equipment multiple times). And … what NOT to say to the shearer: “You’re gonna have to help me catch them.”
- √ YES Electricity is available and has been tested. If necessary, run an extension cord.
x NO There are no electrical outlets, or they do not work. What NOT to say to the shearer: “You mean you need electricity?” “Oh, I will have to go find some extension cords and run them (400 feet) from the house. It should only take 20 minutes or so.” (note: I do travel with an inverter that I can hook to my truck, but I need to be able to bring the truck to the shearing area)
- √ YES If rain is in the forecast, lock your animals under shelter BEFORE it starts raining. If there is no earthly way you can keep animals dry unless you bring them into your living room, call the shearer well in advance to let him/her know this. BTW we are perfectly happy to shear in your living room if that is what it takes.
x NO You have left the animals out in the field and they are soaking wet. You have ‘washed’ the barn floor and there are puddles everywhere. The animals are still out in the field in the rain. What NOT to say to the shearer after he/she has already arrived: “Well, I guess you’ll just have to come back another day.”
- √ YES Fast the sheep for at least 12 hours beforehand. Fasting means no hay, no grazing on pasture, no grain. Water is fine. For other animals, refrain from giving grain. But sheep must have empty bellies for their safety.
x NO You gather the animals in from the pasture right before shearing. They need time to settle, to evacuate, and to understand there is a new routine for today.
- √ YES Have a clean, well lit, flat shearing area. For sheep, we need at least a 4’x6′ space completely cleared (this is the bare minimum). For alpacas, we need approximately 15’x8′ area for the pulley restraint system to be set up. This includes solid points (posts, beams, or the ability to bring our vehicle close enough to use a tire as one point.
x NO The barn hasn’t been cleaned since it was built. The flooring is wet (we have had to leap over flowing streams of manure – this is a true story – but these are all true stories). The entire property is built on a mountain and there is no flat space to be found. It’s over 90 degrees out and the only shearing area is in full sun. (note: we do bring a canopy, but please don’t ask your animals to stand in the sun waiting to be shorn).
- √ YES If you want to preserve the fiber for processing or selling, you have bags labelled for each animal. Even if you do not wish to keep the fiber, you should still be prepared to collect it.
x NO You ask the shearer, “where are my bags?” (yes, this happened also). (The truth is that I usually bring extra bags because I know that often folks don’t have the right type on hand and I’m allergic to the scented bags. But don’t count on every shearer doing this.)
- √ YES Communicate. Please let us know in advance how many animals need shearing. Please tell us if your animals have special needs, lumps or bumps or previously broken bones or scars we need to know about. Please tell us if the animal will be going to show any time after shearing, and if you have any special requests in terms of the fiber removal. If there is something I am doing you do not like, please let me know.
x NO You just remembered you have an extra 10 rams in the back 40 we also need to shear. (Often other animals may need attention, and the truth is we are happy to help – but if there are significant changes we really do need to know for scheduling purposes). If you are unhappy with anything during the shearing process, please speak up. These are your animals.
- √ YES You are prepared to pay after shearing is complete. Most shearers accept cash and checks; some can take credit card payments with phone apps.
x NO You indicate that you are broke but will have money next week. Some shearers will invoice, but too many of us have not been paid after the fact for very hard work so there may be a fee for invoicing.
- √ YES Manage traffic/noise in the shearing area. Positively no little children or dogs are allowed near the shearing area. I love both – but not during shearing. They can watch from a distance, but need to be quiet – sudden noises startle the animals (and the shearer). Given the current COVID19 situation, we prefer to minimize the number of people especially if we are inside a barn.
x NO You have a big, noisy party going on with people running in and out of the shearing area at all times (true story). This is how injuries happen.
- √ YES And finally … you are there. At your farm. Remember, these are your animals.
x NO You leave for work, go inside the house, send a disinterested teenager to be with us. You are inebriated; you are having a party and entertaining guests; you are in the middle of a major domestic quarrel; you are having a conference call with your work. You are wearing city clothes, high heels, flip flops (yes this really happened), you are babysitting someone else’s 2 year old child (yes, this also happened), or you are getting ready to go out to do something else. What NOT to say to the shearer, as you point to the barn: “the animals are over there. Let me know when you are done.”