34.00 seconds

Surely everyone knows that the current world record for shearing a single mature sheep is 39.31 seconds. What most of you probably don’t know is that Joanna and I are quite capable of shearing a single sheep in less time than that. We filmed our own record-breaking effort the other day. Note the elapsed time of just 34.00 seconds. If only the folks from the Guinness Book had been here at the farm to officiate and certify the effort.

Perhaps your mental image of sheep shearing is that of a single individual laboring with an animal on its rump. Joanna and I have always sheared as a team, and you may wonder why. Before I explain allow me to point out that Joanna is always in charge, she shears the animal, my job is to attend to details (legs, head and neck, tail, udder (girls), and delicate parts (boys)). I also lift the animal onto the stand, trim the hooves and deliver medications. We shear on a fitting stand because it’s lots easier on the back. Also, notice that Joanna removes the fleece in a single piece rather than in as many swathes as strokes of the clipper. Harvesting the fleece in this way is critical for a handspinner. It is easier for us to achieve this with the animal standing on all-fours rather than folded and contorted on its backside. Fleece character differs from front-to-back, side-to-side, and belly-to-topline. Because Joanna needs to be able to select different parts of the fleece for different applications, she needs to harvest the thing in a single piece. Keeping the fleece intact also ensures that the lock structure of the wool remains intact. If our fleeces were going to be shipped off to be processed into commercial yarns, and combined with hundreds of other fleeces, then it would not be necessary to harvest the fleece with such care. And finally, we take advantage of having the animal on the stand to trim its hooves and to administer both an internal anthelmintic (1% ivermectin) and an external insecticide (5% permethrin). Although I cannot tell you whether our animals find shearing stressful, I can tell you that the older animals remember being sheared and are far more relaxed about the process than are the yearlings. As to whether they find being sheared pleasant, I can assure you that, after being relieved of its heavy winter coat, each newly-sheared animal walks back to pasture with a smile of delight and an extra bit of kick in its step.

Here’s a link to another video which shows a genuine world record (45.41 seconds to shear a single mature sheep) being set back in 2005 by Dwayne Black of Australia. The current record is held by Hilton Barrett who sheared a single animal in just 39.31 seconds in Wellington, New South Wales, Australia, on May 1, 2010. If you’re interested in learning how to shear a sheep in the traditional way, check on this video produced by the Pennsylvania State University Extension Service.

21 thoughts on “34.00 seconds

  1. Good to see those Aussies holding the “official” records. It is said that White Australia grew up on the sheep’s back, meaning that’s how our economy grew in the old days.

    I’ve never seen sheep being sheared on a stand. It’s a very good idea.

    • Hey three Tree Girl … I see you’ve been busy looking around Pairodox today … thanks. Yes indeed, you Australians certainly do seem to have a monopoly on the shearing industry. It’s been really weird that comments from a couple of folks have indicated that they weren’t aware that the video I posted was captured in time-lapse and that it recorded a fairly long period (about 20 minutes) and compressed it into just 34 seconds! Sheesh! Thanks for dropping in and for taking the time to look around and get in touch. Dave

      • Yes, but you have the monopoly on ‘smart’ – most of our shearers have crook (bad) backs.

        We went to a medieval fayre yesterday, and they had lots of handcrafts there. One was called naalbinding – Joanna may know of it? I would like to give it a go. It’s a knotting technique, so if you get a hole in your woollen socks, it won’t undo like ‘normal’ knitting.

        • Oh, and I do enjoy visiting your place. You are doing something that I admire but could never do myself.

        • Yup … she’s sitting right hear beside me and says she’s heard of it … but, ” … don’t know how to do it!” Joanna is working on another shawl at the moment … a really crazy one that she wanted to have for a competition in July, but she doesn’t think she’s gonna make it. Too much going on and not enough time for knitting! Thanks again for checking in Tree Girl. D

  2. It probably helps to have a smaller-than-average breed of sheep … but I would imagine that time advantage gets canceled out if you take care to do a smooth job and not cut the animal. There are lots of sheared sheep around here, but they all look a bit ragged!

  3. I loved the music you chose! Now, that’s expertise if I ever saw it. What a cool video. And, Joanna really does take it off in one “pelt”. Impressive stuff! 🙂

  4. Ha ha! All the while I was thinking perhaps it’s because you’re a pair, or maybe it’s got something to do with the stand, or maybe the record is for a particular extra-woolly sheep or something. You got me! I still think, though that this would have been extra-good with the chorus to George Thoroughgood’s “Get a Haircut” playing, although it would be unlikely that he’d give permission 🙂 It’s nice to see that sort of teamwork in action. Oh, and I just watched it again. Ducks – were they jealous or something?

    • It’s weird that I loaded the video to YouTube and then edited it to add audio and the thing went into a seemingly endless ‘editing’ loop … thought the music would never show up … and then, quite unexpectedly, it was there last evening. Three days to complete a behind-the-scenes edit? Weird. Have you checked it out since the music was added? I think it snaps the thing up a bit. Anyway … it’s kinda weird that a couple of folks have responded in ways which lead me to believe that perhaps they don’t realize the thing was filmed in time lapse! I haven’t calculated how long it actually took us, but it was something like 15 or 20 minutes! Thanks for your appreciation. D

  5. This is SO impressive! You are the perfect team! 🙂 You should get the Guinness Book folk out to the farm and document your effort! It deserve the accolades! I bet they return to the field feeling light and cool! How many pounds of fleece do you shear from each animal?

    • Our fleeces weigh 4 – 7 pounds. Remember that they are insulating so that ‘wearing’ a fleece on a warm day keeps the girls cool as well as one keeps them warm on cold days. Anyway, I’m sure it’s lots more comfortable though to be rid of them. Imagine wearing five or six bulky sweaters all through the winter and being able to finally take them off, come those first warm days of spring. We just came up the drive … the entire flock was grazing in the sunshine and they all looked great. The rams are still to go … but there are only two of them. D

  6. Ah yes, that does look easier on all involved. Shearing day was probably one of my least favourite as a kid. My job was to tie the fleece, which meant keeping up to two professionals who also traveled to New Zealand during our winters to work. They were quick, but I also remember their fleece coming off in such a way that they would toss it to land flat on the plywood, laying it like a bearskin rug in one large piece. I had to fold it in a particular manner and then tie it a certain way, then take the fleece to be compacted by a machine into very large burlap bags. We always did this on an incredibly hot day, usually in July, as that was the only time that we school kids and the shearers were all available at the same time.

    • Wow … great story. You say that shearing day was your ‘least favourite.’ Was it really? I suppose when I describe the difficult work of shearing to folks they take it to sound awfully romantic. But, as you and I know, it is anything but! The only good thing about shearing, I suppose, is having it DONE! And, we’re not quite there yet. I believe that there are five more ewes and two more rams to go. We had three inches of rain overnight however, so it’ll take a day or two for the animals to dry off sufficiently … that is, if the weather cooperates. D

  7. I think I will try this approach the next time I have to meet an urgent deadline 😉 I would have been totally impressed within something under a few minutes – I had no idea that somebody can do that in less than a minute! Your sheep seems to be a true stoic – amazing! Was it “experience,” or are they typically that calm?

    • Regarding your question … the more mature sheep are pretty relaxed on the stand because they’ve been through it all before and know what to expect and know that they’re not going to die as a result! The young ones however, that’s a totally different story … they get pretty upset and are quite jumpy. By the second year, they too are fine. We simply have to be a bit more ‘understanding’ with the young ones. The animal we sheared for the video was, clearly, one of the older ewes. Thanks for checking in on this one … it was fun to produce. D

    • Yes … silly things … there’s very little that happens in and around the barn without their knowledge. Geese … or at least these two … are so curious and inquisitive. I wondered whether anyone would notice them in the background! Thanks for checking in Jenny … I’m glad you appreciated our little joke. D

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