Guest Author - Laun Dunn
What does it take to have a successful day of shearing? A little planning and a whole lot of help! While my main focus as a shearer is on alpacas, most of this will carry over to other fiber animals.
The most important thing you need for a good shearing day is as many helpful hands as you can gather. Be sure that anyone helping knows that the farmer and the shearer may ask them to do tasks that they may not be experienced with, but we are used to working with people of all experience levels, and there is no such thing as a dumb question.
Most larger farms will have a shearing list. This list will contain the name of each animal, color, any vaccinations or other maintenance that are to be performed, and a blank area for the fiber weights. The shearing list may also have labels for the fiber bags or small bags for fiber samples.
The shearing area should be kept as clean as possible. I use a shearing table which minimizes the chance of the fiber being exposed to the ground, but it still needs to be cleaned between animals. Especially when they decide to spit, or pee. When using a table, the floor still needs to be kept fairly clear of fiber to keep everyone from slipping.
Prior to shearing, the animals should be cleaned or blown out. It is much easier to clean the fiber when the animal is still wearing it than after it has been sheared. The fleece should also be dry. If you absolutely must shear a damp animal, be sure to dry the fleece before storing it.
The shorn fiber needs to be bagged according to the cut. The fleece should be divided into the following categories: first cuts (aka blanket), second cut (leg and neck), or third cut (belly and lower leg). Each bag should be labeled with the name of the animal and which cut it contains. The bags should be weighed individually and weight should be noted either on the bag or on the fleece chart. Once it is bagged, it may be taken directly to a skirting table, or it may be skirted at another time.
The shearer will need time at certain intervals to change combs and cutters if you are shearing a large number of animals. With the advent of ceramic cutters, this has been greatly reduced, but it does offer the perfect time to sweep the area, or get the next animal ready. This can also be a time when vaccinations may be administered, nails trimmed, or teeth cut. Just be sure that if you are planning to do any of these things while the animal is tethered that you let the shearer know in advance so that he or she may plan accordingly.