A good shearing technique can add value to a fleece, while correct handling and control of the sheep protects the shearer’s back from injury.
With farmers now finding it difficult to source a shearer, many are having a go at clipping fleeces themselves.
Getting the basics right is important, says Richard Scofield, a trainer for the British Wool Marketing Board. Here Mr Scofield guides novices through the different stages:
See also: How to roll a fleece correctly
1. Catching and holding
Work calmly and quietly to retrieve the sheep from the pen, holding its right front leg with the right hand and the wool at the top of the brisket with the left hand. Site the sheep up on the shearing board, turning its head to one side.
2. Start at the top of the brisket
The aim is to remove the fleece in one piece, ideally with the belly piece rolled inside the fleece.
To do this, start at the top of the brisket – if right-handed use the right hand to shear and the left to tighten the skin. The belly wool will come off in one piece – place to one side.
3. Move to the first back leg
Ideally four blows – a blow is a single sweeping cut – will take you from the inside of the back leg to the tail.
4. Don’t forget the tails
For sheep with tails, start with the comb on the underside of the tail and shear from tip to top, turning the tail and moving down twice, perhaps three times.
With the last blow move onto the backbone. Step back a little and apply another blow, moving over the backbone and up the backside – the undermine.
5. The undermine
This will require two blows, either side of the spine.
6. The neck
Position your right foot between the sheep’s back legs to prepare you for shearing the inside of the neck.
When the blow to the right-hand side has been completed, turn the head to allow you to move the comb up the opposite side, slighting turning the sheep around at this point to keep the machine on the right-hand side – you can’t bend the machine around the sheep so you must manoeuvre the sheep to the machine.
7. The shoulders
The first blow is over the shoulder. Once the shoulder is completed, drop the shoulder of the sheep over the toes of your foot. This removes pressure from your back.
8. The long blows
Shear to the backbone on the near side of the sheep. At least one of the long sweeps of the comb should be placed over the far side of the spine.
9. Cheek and the right front leg
As the last long blow is completed, walk forward with the right foot, sweeping the fleece with you.
Rest the sheep’s head on your knees, remove the cheek wool, put the head between your knees and step back, trying to pull the sheep back up with your legs.
Start with a full-width blow on the right front leg, running narrower as you run out of leg.
10. The final sweeps
Work the comb over the last shoulder, moving straight down the inside of the right hind leg and apply the last finishing blows to that side.
Every subsequent blow continues straight from the top of the shoulder, down the side of the sheep and out of the back leg.