shearing might have had its origins way back in the blade days. The following
traditional Australian song (unknown writer) and dating from at least the late
1800s sums it up quite well. The words have been slightly altered from time to
time by various people who have recorded it. There are 6 verses in all, but I
have given only the first and the chorus. I can post the rest if anybody wants
them. The ringer is the fastest shearer on the boards. Quality is always of the
utmost importance and one of the verses describes the boss sitting in the shed
and watching to make sure the sheep are shorn clean.
everyone is aware that all Australian sheep properties have a purpose built
woolshed and that the wool is classed in the shed and baled there. There are
State and Federal laws applying to many aspects of shearing and the “award”
conditions under which shearers are employed.
Out on the board the old shearer
Grasping his shears in his thin bony hands
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied yoe,
Glory if he gets her, won't he make the ringer go.
the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old swaggie with the bare-bellied yoe.
As for current merino lamb shearing in
Australia, lambs on the ground are shorn at the once a year shearing so as to
bring them in line with all other sheep in the flock. Overgrown wool – that is
a fleece with more than 12 months growth is classified as a fault, and bales
have to be branded OG, so lambs are not left until they are, say 15 months old
or more, as would happen with summer shearing in Britain.
Not all sheep stations carry breeders, some
running only wethers, but the biggest have large ewe flocks. The ewes and lambs
(drafted prior to shearing) are usually shorn last, but if cheesy gland is a
problem on the property they might be shorn first. As most will already know, a
lamb’s fleece does not have the same binding fibres as an adult’s so great care
is needed in picking up the fleece. With adults the fleece is picked up and
thrown onto the wool rolling table (a slatted table about 10 x 5 feet, or they
can be round) and is rather like throwing a table cloth onto a table. The
fleece is skirted and rolled for the classer to inspect. With lambs great care
is needed, and a wool table will normally be covered to receive the fleeces. A
pair of dressed 6” wooden boards, about 2 feet long and often hinged at one
end, are used to gather together the shorn fleece, and it is gently dropped
onto the covered table. Skirting would be of a very minimum, removing only the
shortest wool from the points and belly. At most three lines would be baled up.
AAALMS being the best and longest fleeces, AALMS slightly shorter from the
later born lambs if there are sufficient to make a line, and ALMS being the
broken fleeces and pieces. I needed to check my notes because I could not
remember when WNS needs to be branded on the bales instead of LMS. It is after
the lambs have reached about 6 months of age.