The Truth About Shearing Sheep

With temperatures varying all across the nation it is difficult to stay warm. To me the best way to accomplish that is by sitting inside, up under a blanket, in front of a fire. But we usually do not get that luxury. So sometimes we have to venture out into the cold, windy harshness that is winter. That is when you resort to the second best way to deal with the cold, wool clothing.

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Recently wool has been getting a bad rap on Facebook. Some people would like you to believe that shearing is a dangerous, painful experience for the sheep. But the truth of the matter is, that is not true.

Shearing can actually make the sheep more comfortable. Maria Linton a sheep farmer in North Carolina explains exactly what shearing is. “Shearing is the process of cutting wool off of a sheep. It is just like you and I getting a haircut.”

It also is very safe for the sheep. Professionals flip a sheep on its butt, which calms them,and shear them in a pattern. “Typically this is a strip down the belly, strokes down each side then down the back,” explains Linton. Professionals shear a sheep quickly, but still do not knick them often. If they are accidentally knicked in the process it is not very deep. It is similar to knicking yourself while shaving. Linton says if she does accidentally knick her sheep she will immediately put an antiseptic spray on the wound to keep it from getting infected.

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Marisa Linton preparing to shear a sheep at her farm. Notice the difference between the sheep in the front and in the background

Professionals often go to shearing school to learn how to shear properly and in the best interest of the sheep, explains Linton. Many farmers while shearing will give their vaccinations, trim hooves and check them to make sure they are completely healthy.

Shearing makes the sheep a lot more comfortable as well. This is because all that wool gets heavy and hot, especially during the summer. Because of this, a lot of farmers will shear their sheep right before summer so that they can be cool throughout the hottest part of the year.

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A sheep that was shorn by Will Jordan

Farmers make money, depending on the quality of wool. The quality of wool depends largely on the breed of sheep, but also on the health of the sheep. Sheep farmers, all farmers for that matter, want the best for their animals. Animal agriculture is only successful if animals are happy and healthy.

Sheep are normally sheared either once a year, or twice a year depending on breed. But what do they do for the rest of the year? They eat, walk around and poop. Marisa keeps her sheep on a pasture year round, but do provide shelter to go into when it rains or gets cold. They also supplement with grain and hay to keep the sheep healthy through winter, to not lose weight.

Along with raising sheep and working on her shearing skills Marisa also runs her own blog, for more of her story visit Rural Ris!

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