Sheep have been a great source of food, cloth, tools, art, and business for people for a long time. For about 13000 years both the sheep and the humans have been benefiting from each other. Humans take care of the sheep, feed them and treat them when they are sick whereas sheep give fiber, food, and its skin for human use. The practice of shearing the sheep for wool started after the human learned to spin the wool fiber which is used for different purposes.
What is shearing?
Shearing is the process of cutting off fleece from the body of the sheep. It is a seasonal dance done by humans and sheep or any fiber animals to obtain wool. The wool grows continuously and doesn’t stop growing so it’s sheared annually. The sheared wool is then cleaned and used for felting, making yarn, knitting, and other many more purposes.
Many believe that shearing sheep can harm the sheep’s health and it is bad for them. They believe it is better to let the wool grow itself for the benefit of the animal. But that is not true, shearing has more benefits to the sheep than the human itself. Here we are going to break down the benefits of shearing the sheep and how does it positively affect the sheep.
First of all, let’s talk about the shearing process of the sheep. Many are still unaware of the true meaning of shearing and how it is done.
In ancient times people used scissors called blade shear to shear the sheep manually. The scissors used for shearing are different from the present normal scissors. The Shearing scissor has the hinge at the end farthest point. The cutting edges are squeezed together to shear the wool close to the animal skin. They were widely used in the past now only a few people use them. They are replaced by machine shears called cutters.
Cutters are more precise compared to the blade shears and cut the sheep fleece more quickly and efficiently. The machine cutter is driven back and forth over the surface of the comb to cut the wool. Nowadays we can find machine shears that are motor-powered as well which are portable and does the work smoothy.
Sheep shearing is not an easy job. If you are not skilled enough then you are likely to hurt the sheep and yourself as well. So it is better to hire a professional for shearing the sheep rather than doing it yourself. Professionals have extensive knowledge in shearing and do not want the animal to injure or hurt them. You will be handling a live sheep which is harder than handling a baby. They move a lot and are larger so you get the idea of why a professional is needed for the job.
These are the basic shearing process:
- The sheep is first laid on the floor placing its head on the knee of the shearer.
- Shearing starts from the leg to the tail part of the sheep then the belly part is sheared.
- The machine is stroked from top to bottom then the sheep is slowly turned to the side for shearing the back. This way they shear the wool of all sides.
- This process is done with great diligence and care.
Benefits of Sheep Shearing
Here, we have listed some of the benefits of Sheep Shearing.
Have you heard about the famous sheep ‘Barrack Sheep’ and ‘Chris’. Both the sheep became famous for their thick coat of wool. They were unable to walk properly because of the weight of the sheep. Just by looking at them, you will be able to know how uncomfortable they were. So shearing is an important aspect for the sheep. The coats of sheep grow every year growing bigger and bigger.
If not sheared it can cover its whole body and even there face making it not possible to walk and see normally. So shearing is crucial for the animals.
The growth of the fleece never stops so if not cut then there would be excess wool on the body of the sheep. The excess wool is not good for the sheep. Wool provides warmth to the sheep’s body but in the summer season, it results in overheating and discomfort in the body. This also leads to the potential of heat stress and even death.
So the sheep’s wool is sheared annually during the spring season. This time of the year is perfect for shearing as the environment gets warmer and the sheep will be able to tolerate the warmth. So shearing helps regulate suitable temperature for the sheep.
Shearing promotes the better health of the sheep. Different kinds of dirt, mud, manure, and urine of the animal get attached to the wool of the animals leading to an unhygienic environment. It attracts different flies and they lay eggs which can make the sheep sick. The wool fleece also can absorb water. The dampness and moisture from the water are perfect for the pathogen’s host on the animals and grow rapidly. They lead to different health complications like skin diseases and infection.
Short fleece promotes a cleaner environment for the sheep. This minimizes the growth of pathogens and leads to better health for the sheep. So shearing plays an important part in keeping the sheep healthy.
Quality Fleece Production
Shearing the sheep annually allows room for the fleece to grow properly. When the wool is left unsheared for a long time then the fiber of the fleece gets tangled and matted together, which is not good for the wool business and the sheep as well. The matted and tangled wool hold different dirt which degrades the quality of fleece as well. So shearing the wool promotes the growth of good quality fleece.
Shearing the wool promotes better care for the newborn lamb. if the wool is not sheared before giving birth then the overgrowth of the wool covers the mother’s teats which prevents the lamb from nursing. This can cause complications in the health of the lamb and die due to malnutrition. So shearing removes the wool making it easy for nursing the lamb.
Shearing also benefits the maternal behavior of the sheep-like grooming its lamb. This creates maternal bonding between the sheep and the lamb and decreases the risk of the lamb being abandoned.
Shearing is beneficial for the sheep. It promotes better health, improved fleece quality, and better motherhood. The shearing process does not harm the sheep but rather it has become crucial for it. It also helps the sheep to sustain themselves during hot weather. Both the sheep and the humans are benefited.