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River
Apr 22, 2012
Nothin' but the rain

I'm a full time shearer from Australia, and I was wondering if any goons had any experience with the wool industry and would like to start a discussion about our experiences and also maybe trade some info. I've been doing this about 5 years.

I work mainly in South East to Central NSW and Northern Victoria with a contractor. I've worked with a few world record holders, shearing instructors and some legends of the industry including judges for the Golden Shears. I'm also happy to answer any questions anybody might have about the wool industry, ask away!

A couple of videos that show a little of what we do:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et-SPCNjHyA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUdp2s2xPYk

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Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

We'll roll on with our heads held high.
Our conscience in the gutter,
Our dreams up in the sky.




hair sheep best sheep

Instant Jellyfish
Jul 3, 2007

Actually not a fish.



I'm a shearer but entirely different than australian shearing. I specialize in small flocks, primarily owned by grandmas who want you to know each sheep by name and will lose it if you cut them at all. I do the sheep standing on a stand like grooming a dog. I guarantee you do more in a day than I do all season but it's a good niche in my area and my clients are happy I'm there. Most people beg me to take the wool with me, there's no money in it if you don't market specifically to handspinners or have specialty fleece. The wool pool prices are ridiculous if you only have 6 sheep like most of my clients.

River
Apr 22, 2012
Nothin' but the rain

Fluffy Bunnies posted:

hair sheep best sheep

I'm not a fan, at all. My experience with 'hair' sheep is that they are mad, the fiber is terrible, and because they have a lack of oils (ex. lanolin) your handpiece tends to get boiling hot. But they are generally straight-bodied and easy to get around.

Instant Jellyfish posted:

I'm a shearer but entirely different than australian shearing. I specialize in small flocks, primarily owned by grandmas who want you to know each sheep by name and will lose it if you cut them at all. I do the sheep standing on a stand like grooming a dog. I guarantee you do more in a day than I do all season but it's a good niche in my area and my clients are happy I'm there. Most people beg me to take the wool with me, there's no money in it if you don't market specifically to handspinners or have specialty fleece. The wool pool prices are ridiculous if you only have 6 sheep like most of my clients.

I understand partly - I do a few jobs for people who own just a handful of 'pet' sheep. I do these on the weekend and charge 10-30 dollars per sheep. Have to go real slow so I don't nick any, although it's sometimes unavoidable. I often take the wool too. What part of the world are you from, and how much do you charge per sheep? What kind of gear do you use?

River fucked around with this message at 03:20 on Jan 21, 2020

Instant Jellyfish
Jul 3, 2007

Actually not a fish.



River posted:

I understand partly - I do a few jobs for people who own just a handful of 'pet' sheep. I do these on the weekend and charge 10-30 dollars per sheep. Have to go real slow so I don't nick any, although it's sometimes unavoidable. I often take the wool too. What part of the world are you from, and how much do you charge per sheep? What kind of gear do you use?

I'm in Ohio, USA. I actually use large animal clippers instead of shears most of the time because there's basically no risk of cutting with them and that really is a priority for my customers, especially my angora goat clients. I can do a sheep in about 10-15 minutes with them but when you only have 5 to do speed isn't really a problem. My largest client is my own farm and I can space my 60 head out if I need to. Currently I charge $8 usd per sheep and $10 usd per goat plus a setup/minimum fee and travel, which usually works out to be about $20 an hour plus the occasional tip or meal or whatever farm products they send me home with. It's more of a community service than a job. People just can't get shearers in my area and the ones you can find aren't great.

Shearer 1: I have one client who had this shearer kill 3 out of her flock of 12. One got a cut achille's tendon and had to be put down, one got its udder cut up and couldn't lamb anymore so was butchered, and one got a knee to the guts and died of internal bleeding. She was in tears afraid when she scheduled me she was going to lose more again. I can't promise to be the best or more efficient shearer but I can guarantee that all the sheep will be alive and well at the end.

Shearer 2: I've gotten reports from clients saying he has the owner pin the sheep to the ground for him and then shears them there and has nicked hands in the process. Plus the owner has to spend all day on their knees holding sheep because he isn't fast. I don't know how he gets people to cooperate when I can barely get people to have their sheep penned when I show up.

Do you do angoras ever? The goat people are the worst and I definitely need to add some sort of addition goat fee just for putting up with the owners. Of course they're never the ones that tip or send me home with dinner. I'm lucky if they have someplace I can wash my hands.

queserasera
Jul 10, 2014

These high-G injections have some serious side effects after pulling so many jumps.


I have so many questions. Is there a specific shearing season or is it as needed like haircuts? Do lambs get sheared? Does age/size/diet change the wool? What's the next step for the fleece once it's off the animal?

Instant Jellyfish
Jul 3, 2007

Actually not a fish.



queserasera posted:

I have so many questions. Is there a specific shearing season or is it as needed like haircuts? Do lambs get sheared? Does age/size/diet change the wool? What's the next step for the fleece once it's off the animal?

Small farm USA answers, probably very different in large commercial flocks:

1. Sheep are usually sheared in the spring, although it varies and I have shearing jobs almost every month of the year. For wool production its better to shear before lambing because it keeps the wool cleaner and also the stress of having a baby can cause a weakness or break in the wool. People lamb all different times for all different reasons so they shear all different times. Most of my jobs are between March and May though with the breeds needing done twice a year being done in September and October as well.

2. Sometimes. Lambs you're keeping as replacement stock don't need to be sheared until the rest of the flock is sheared when they're almost a year old unless they are a breed that needs to be sheared every 6 months or so. If you are shipping them as meat animals people often shear them first to get a few pennies from the wool crop and let the wool grow out for about 6 weeks to get a prime shearling length on the hide. I sheared a bunch of my lambs in October because I'm considering showing them at Maryland Sheep and Wool in May and if I sheared them in March like the rest of my sheep they would have very little growth and wouldn't show well in a fleece class. Club lambs need to be totally naked for shows so my club lamb people generally have me out to shear 4-6 month old lambs about 2 weeks before fairs so they can just do touch ups week of. I love shearing club lambs, they're just so fat and easy to slick down.

3. Yes, yes and yes. Diet probably has the biggest impact on wool fineness and fleece weight but a bigger sheep will generally shear a larger fleece and they tend to get coarser as they get older. Colored sheep also tend to fade/grey out as they get older. I have a 14 year old that still has a lovely fleece though and some breeds like to brag about their fleeces getting finer or darker with age but I'd take it with a big grain of salt.

4. Wool sorting and packing is a whole different industry that the OP probably knows better than me. My farm sells fleece and produces small batches of yarn from our sheep though. Some fleece gets sold as is once we pick off any gross parts (skirting), some gets sorted into batches with similar fleeces to be sent to a mill to be scoured (washed) and either combed/carded to sell as roving or fully spun into yarn to our specifications. We then sell at fiber festivals and online.

River
Apr 22, 2012
Nothin' but the rain

queserasera posted:

I have so many questions. Is there a specific shearing season or is it as needed like haircuts? Do lambs get sheared? Does age/size/diet change the wool? What's the next step for the fleece once it's off the animal?

'Shearing Season' can generally be described as summertime; but lots of farmers shear at all times or even 3-4 times a year, there is also crutching work to be done (Removing the wool from the backside and teat areas, pizzle areas etc to prevent things like flyblow and clean the sheep up, and around the head on some sheep, merinos mainly, to prevent wool-blindness), you can work pretty much every day of the year, as I do, if you chase the work, travel overseas or are with a big enough contractor with enough clients.

Lambs get shorn typically at about 6 months old, but it can be earlier or later depending on the breed and farmer, really.

Age, size and diet do change the wool, in some ways significantly, depending on the breed. Typically as sheep age their wool gets coarser and they stop growing wool on the 'points' (Around their head, legs and belly), diet can change the amount grown and also the fineness; If you want to start getting super-fine wool from for example a Merino wether - What you would typically do (Aside from things like frame and bloodline) is you would restrict its diet to make the wool grow finer.

Once the fleece is shorn off the animal it is generally picked up a certain way and thrown flat onto a wool table, where wool handlers skirt around the edges and take off the fribs, which are oily , dirty edges that are also shorter than the rest of the fleece, any stained wool, any cotted (matted) wool, and take the backs out if they are quite dusty as this would affect the yield. The fleece is then rolled up and presented to the wool classer, who grades the wool based on certain parameters (tenderness, fineness, crimp, length, colour) and places it into a 'line' of wool with all other matching fleeces. A wool presser then takes from these lines of wool and presses them into bales of wool, weighing between 120kg to 200ish kg, fills out the label describing the wool and the number of the bale, brands the same information on the front using stencils and ink, and now the bale is ready for sale.

That bale is then taken usually to a wool broker by truck. The wool broker will combine 4 to 5 bales of matching wool together and truck it to a wool auction, melbourne has a large wool auction center, for example. The buyer then takes that wool and further processes it by washing, carding, dyeing, spinning and finally making clothing, carpet, etc out of that wool. Sometimes some of those steps are done by the broker, sometimes they may be done in a slightly different order, but that is generally the wool process.



Instant Jellyfish posted:

I'm in Ohio, USA. I actually use large animal clippers instead of shears most of the time because there's basically no risk of cutting with them and that really is a priority for my customers, especially my angora goat clients. I can do a sheep in about 10-15 minutes with them but when you only have 5 to do speed isn't really a problem. My largest client is my own farm and I can space my 60 head out if I need to. Currently I charge $8 usd per sheep and $10 usd per goat plus a setup/minimum fee and travel, which usually works out to be about $20 an hour plus the occasional tip or meal or whatever farm products they send me home with. It's more of a community service than a job. People just can't get shearers in my area and the ones you can find aren't great.

Shearer 1: I have one client who had this shearer kill 3 out of her flock of 12. One got a cut achille's tendon and had to be put down, one got its udder cut up and couldn't lamb anymore so was butchered, and one got a knee to the guts and died of internal bleeding. She was in tears afraid when she scheduled me she was going to lose more again. I can't promise to be the best or more efficient shearer but I can guarantee that all the sheep will be alive and well at the end.

Shearer 2: I've gotten reports from clients saying he has the owner pin the sheep to the ground for him and then shears them there and has nicked hands in the process. Plus the owner has to spend all day on their knees holding sheep because he isn't fast. I don't know how he gets people to cooperate when I can barely get people to have their sheep penned when I show up.

Do you do angoras ever? The goat people are the worst and I definitely need to add some sort of addition goat fee just for putting up with the owners. Of course they're never the ones that tip or send me home with dinner. I'm lucky if they have someplace I can wash my hands.

How do you shear the sheep/goats, exactly? What style I mean. How is the sheep positioned and where do you start and finish? I am very interested in 'unorthodox' styles - Everyone has their own style but around my way we all shear to the same basic pattern. Belly, crutch, undermine, top knot, neck, drop (left shoulder), long blows, last side.

River fucked around with this message at 07:42 on Jan 21, 2020

queserasera
Jul 10, 2014

These high-G injections have some serious side effects after pulling so many jumps.


GIS for club lamb showed me a bunch of sheep with short coats and dark feet.

I am clearly out of my element here. Any good books on sheep basics?

Instant Jellyfish
Jul 3, 2007

Actually not a fish.



River posted:

How do you shear the sheep/goats, exactly? What style I mean. How is the sheep positioned and where do you start and finish? I am very interested in 'unorthodox' styles - Everyone has their own style but around my way we all shear to the same basic pattern. Belly, crutch, undermine, top knot, neck, drop (left shoulder), long blows, last side.

Here's a good illustration, although I vary it a little and don't leave the wig or leg shag unless I'm shearing club lambs. Belly and butt can be tossed directly in the trash or into a bag of seconds depending on how gross it is.



I learned how to shear the same way you when I was starting out but I'm a 5'2" woman with short arms and legs and it just wasn't very practical for me. There was just no way I was going to be able to handle 200+ lb rams that way and after getting my shears kicked into my face one too many times I decided I was just going to do things my own way. I love seeing a good shearer though and I always say if I knew a good one in my area I sure as poo poo wouldn't be shearing myself.

queserasera posted:

GIS for club lamb showed me a bunch of sheep with short coats and dark feet.

I am clearly out of my element here. Any good books on sheep basics?

Club lambs is the name for terminal lambs produced for 4H/FFA show kids. Current trends mean most of them are hampshire/suffolk crosses but breed isn't super important. They are usually wethers (castrated males) but sometimes ewe lambs that kids raise then show with the intention of auctioning them off for meat at the end. Families and community members usually bid a lot of these lambs and the money goes towards a college fund for the kid usually. Many country kids go to college on 4H auction money. Kids can also do breeding projects where the sheep aren't terminal but those are a lot less common, at least in my area.

If you want to learn about raising sheep Storey's Guide is always good. The sheep 101 website is always nice in a pinch too. I teach a lambing basics class every year and really the best way to learn about sheep is to hang out with shepherds. I've had them for 10 years this fall and I'm still always learning something new. Going to sheep and wool shows is also fun and will show you how many different breeds of sheep there are out there (I have 4 myself).

River, do you do mostly merinos or is there a variety? It seems like every farm I go to out here has a different breed of sheep with their own quirks. If I never have to shear a wensleydale again it will be too soon.

edit: I also have had many sheep threads over the years if people want to see my sheep.

Instant Jellyfish fucked around with this message at 20:45 on Jan 21, 2020

Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

We'll roll on with our heads held high.
Our conscience in the gutter,
Our dreams up in the sky.




River posted:

I'm not a fan, at all. My experience with 'hair' sheep is that they are mad, the fiber is terrible, and because they have a lack of oils (ex. lanolin) your handpiece tends to get boiling hot. But they are generally straight-bodied and easy to get around.

That sucks that you've been around idiots. Katahdins are generally light sheep but some of the others are a bit less stupid. Mine are some of the chillest animals in existence if you have a scoop of feed, rams included.

I like how you say 'hair' though. The whole point is the fiber to be worthless so you don't have to give a dang about it being on the ground. Then I don't have to shear sheep and it's way easier for people to skin them because they don't have to get through that wool layer. I'll take a carcass animal over a wool production animal every time.

I was mostly kidding because I don't have to shear. Or I didn't. Until Instant Jellyfish was like "yo llamas are great protection animals" and now I have to shear the llama.

Instant Jellyfish
Jul 3, 2007

Actually not a fish.



Fluffy Bunnies posted:

I was mostly kidding because I don't have to shear. Or I didn't. Until Instant Jellyfish was like "yo llamas are great protection animals" and now I have to shear the llama.

You know if you didn't live in America's asscrack you'd have a flock of adorable shetlands, each the size of a loaf of bread, looking up to you with their giant doe eyes hoping for a gentle pet.

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Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

We'll roll on with our heads held high.
Our conscience in the gutter,
Our dreams up in the sky.




Instant Jellyfish posted:

You know if you didn't live in America's asscrack you'd have a flock of adorable shetlands, each the size of a loaf of bread, looking up to you with their giant doe eyes hoping for a gentle pet.

well I mean, probably shetlands and hair sheep in two separate flocks. Maybe more than 1 llama

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