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.