Sheep Shearing

In this video, Mike Fournier, former Penn State Extension Educator, demonstrates how to shear sheep. He also demonstrates the six sheep shearing positions.
Sheep Shearing - Videos


Producers interested in learning to shear their own sheep, or those who may just need a refresher to brush up on their skills, can now look at this video for help on shearing sheep. Finding someone to shear your sheep is becoming more difficult and expensive every year.

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♪ Music ♪ Okay, we're going to talk today about how to shear a sheep.

And one of the most important things about shearing is being able to control the sheep with your legs.

Taking the wool off with the shears is actually pretty easy.

The hard part is controlling the sheep.

So what we're gonna do is go through what I teach as the six basic positions of shearing, in order to be able to control the sheep with your legs - having your hands free at all times, in order to have the shears in one hand and in your opposite hand we'll be pulling skin tight to take the wool off in one piece.

First thing we have to do is throw this sheep; throw this ewe.

Get her on her rump so that we can go to the first position.

A sheep's mouth is meant to be able to put your thumb in it.

She's got incisors in the front - no teeth on the top.

And then she's got her molars in the back.

And between there there's a perfect spot to put your thumb.

And what we're gonna do is we're gonna take her nose; we're gonna turn it back, over on her shoulder, while at the same time pushing down on her rump - get her in that first position.

And it's important to distribute your weight, so that as you turn, and I'm right handed so I use my left hand to turn her, as you turn her and turn her head in, you're putting your weight on her neck and not giving her an option to dance around.

So you'll notice where I am standing.

My feet to the side - her shoulder is between my legs - and now I'm going to try to turn her head in and push down on her rump.

At the same time, I'm going to grab - pull her up.

And now we got her in what we call the first position.

You'll notice where my feet and legs are, so that I've got the shoulder supported by my knees.

We're going to attempt to take the wool off her breast, her belly, the top of her leg, around the utter, and the very top of that left leg, before we switch positions.

Now, I want you to notice how I keep my shears on the skin, with the back of the shears in the air, and with my left hand, I'm gonna be pulling the skin-tight.

So, let's see what we can get done here.


Ok, that's all we need to do in the first position.

We've got the wool off the breast, off the belly, and you'll notice that when I did the breast I did a little kind of j-stroke, to open up the belly, because there are a lot of folds of skin there.

Then, I took a stroke down the right-hand side, to open up the belly.

Everything else was across the belly.

And as I went across the belly, I raised my shears, so that the points stay right on the skin.

Notice that I had my left hand pulling that skin tight.

You don't ever want to pull the wool up, because then you're going to cut skin.

So, with your left hand you're pulling the skin tight.

That keeps everything tight, so the shears can cut.

Now what we're going to do is move directly to the second position, which is: I'm just going to step to the right.

She's gonna fall against my legs, and then I'm going to do her lower leg, and the top of her head.

So, all I do is step to the side, and her weight now is below my knees.

I'm gonna bend mainly from the waist in this position.

I'm gonna do this leg, all the way down to the rump, and then we're gonna do the top of the head and then switch positions.

The key to this position is: if she wants to bend her leg, you need to put your hand in this joint to straighten out that leg.

By putting it right in that joint, it keeps the leg straight, and the skin nice and tight.


Now you'll notice how I did the leg, and I went down to the vulva, and on the other side of the vulva.

And you try to get one on the far side of the vulva and one over the dock - just one little stroke.

Notice this leg is clean now, and that's as far as you need to go.

Just up to the hip - the leg of lamb, basically.

Now, I'm going to take a couple of strokes between the eyes, before I change positions.


And that's all you need to do.

Now we're done with position two.

I'm gonna take my left hand - put it on it on her left foreleg; stand her up straight.

I'm gonna insert my right leg down in between her forelegs - my left leg around her backbone - to get in the third position, in order to do her neck.

So I stand her straight up; put my right foot down around her utter. The key is locking your knee between her breast and this foreleg.

And then, I step across the backbone, so I have control.

I don't have to hold her.

I'm going to stretch her neck out.

I'm going to clean off her neck to start this position.


Now, once you've gone from ear to ear, you've cleaned that neck off.

Now, we have to clean off this side of the head, before we move on to the shoulder and neck.

So, I just bend her out a little bit...


You always go down, over the eye. Never up.

There's a bony structure above the eye, so as long as you're going down over, you'll never cut.

Once I clean off around that eye, I'm gonna take her ear, cover her eye - I'm going to do the back of her ear - start down the back of her neck.


Ok. We're in the third position.

We're ready to move to the fourth.

I cleaned off the neck.

I cleaned off just one side of the head; we're going to get the other side a little later.

I did on the ear; I cleaned off the back of her neck, and I cleaned off that shoulder that's hanging there.

We're now ready to go to the fourth position, which is a simple one.

We're going to take our left hand - we're going to grab her left foreleg.

I'm going to step away with my left foot, leaving my right foot exactly where it is.

I'm going to lay her shoulder blade on top of my left foot, and then I'm gonna make some nice long cuts.

So, it's a simple move.

All I have to do is step away.

Now I've got her with my right foot between her two rear legs my left foot between her two forelegs.

The important point is that you must have her shoulder blade on top of your left foot.

Then you have complete control.

Now, I'm going to take nice long cuts, following my pattern, parallel to the floor.

Then I'm gonna try and get two strokes past the backbone, before I change positions.

When I need to, I'm going to back up just a little bit - flip her two legs in between mine, so that all four legs are between my legs.

Then I can see more, and get all the way down to the backbone.


Ok. That concludes the fourth position.

The key is keeping your foot underneath that shoulder blade, and your legs tight against her body.

Now, I've got all this wool in front of me, and what I'm gonna do is step across that wool, and I'm gonna bend her head up, so that I can clean off the top of her head and I'm gonna start down her neck.

And that's the fifth position.

So I step across, pull that wool in, and I'm gonna bend her head up, and I'm gonna twist her around a little bit, so that we can see with the camera.

In this position now, I'm squeezing with my knees, holding her head.

And I'm gonna finish off the top of this head on this side...


And again I'll turn her just a little bit, so we can see a little better.

Now I've got this wool in front of me, and I've got a natural 45-degree angle set.

I'm going to follow that angle 45 degrees to the floor, squeezing with my knees.

My toes are pointed in.

Notice how my knees are bent.

Notice how I'm bent at the waist.


Now once I clear this shoulder, I'm able to grab that elbow to use as my leverage point.

That keeps the skin good and tight, so I can continue my shearing and I won't be cutting the flesh.


Ok. That's the fifth position.

I've taken off the wool around her head.

I've taken off that last foreleg, and I've done down her flank.

Now, I'm ready to move to the sixth and final position.

To do that, all I'm gonna do is leave my right foot, right where it is.

I'm gonna step back with my left foot.

It's a mirror image of the second position, where she's just laying against my lower legs.

And in this position, I'm going to shear off the rest of this leg, then we're gonna be done.


Once again, if she really wants to bend this leg on ya, there's a joint right in there.

You stick your fist in that joint, and that will straighten that leg out, so you can continue to shear.


And, if we've done this correctly, all the wool should be off, and when we stand her up, she should be about as clean as a whistle.

(to sheep) Come on girl.

And that's how you shear a sheep. ♪ Music ♪ There a couple of things I think we should go over: One is, you want to make sure that your sheep are dry.

We don't like them out in the rain.

We don't like wet wool.

For a couple of reasons: one is you have an electric motor in your hand, and if you're shearing through wet wool, it's a possibility of a shock.

The other thing is if you take wool off that's wet, when it goes to be stored, it will mold on you.

So we wanna make sure the sheep are dry.

We want to keep the sheep as clean as possible.

We don't like to have contaminants in the wool.

So we don't want things like corn and feed and hay and straw.

So as you go through your normal year, try and keep the wool as clean as possible.

And then when you bring the sheep up to get her sheared, you want to try to pick off all that loose wool.

The other thing I like to do when I'm shearing is, I like to tell my customers not to feed in the morning, before I get there.

I like to have limited fill in the gut, because the sheep tends to be a little bit uncomfortable.

So, it's a good idea to feed them the night before, but not in the morning that you're gonna shear.

When we do get to shearing, there are different grades of wool on the ewe and depending on the breed of sheep you have, you might have wool that's an inch and a half long, or as long as six or eight inches, on some of the British breeds.

The key is, though, you want to only keep the good clean wool, for either if you're gonna spin it yourself, or if you're going to sell it.

So we want to make sure we keep the clean wool, and throw the bad wool away.

♪ Music ♪


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