Sheep shearers are in demand statewide as fewer people are trained in the art of shearing the thick, woolen coats of sheep, leaving many smaller sheep producers fewer options to perform the animals' annual shearing needs.
While there isn't any readily available hard data on the number of sheep shearers statewide, as those in the profession aren't required to be licensed, anecdotally it's clear to those in the sheep industry that shearing is a dying art, says Roger High, Ohio State University Extension state sheep program specialist.
High, who is also the executive director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, attributes the decline of sheep shearers to the travel demands on sheep shearers and the fact that sheep shearing can be labor intensive.
"The demand is there for sheep shearers, particularly for those producers who have smaller or medium flocks, because there simply are fewer people doing it," he said. "We really need sheep shearers in Ohio.
"The work can be labor intensive because it involves active, moving sheep. If you learn how to do the shearing technique correctly, it's not hard, but if you aren't doing it correctly, the process can be stressful for the sheep and for the shearer."
To get more people interested in sheep shearing, OSU Extension and the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association are sponsoring a Sheep Shearing School Sept. 20-21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, at the Dave Cable Farm, 10491 Canal Road in Hebron. The program is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced sheep shearers, High said.
Registration is $40 and includes lunch. The deadline to register is Sept. 13. A registration form is available at http://www.ohiosheep.org.
One goal of the school is to get new people, particularly young people, interested in sheep shearing so they can gain knowledge and make extra money, he said.
"We're encouraging farmers, producers and people who own sheep to come out and learn how to shear sheep," High said. "But we're also encouraging non-producers and people interested in the industry to learn how to shear because the skill can also be used as a side business.
"If you really get into it and want to travel, it's not a bad paying job. It can vary from $2.50 a head and up, depending on how many sheep are in need of shearing, and the travel time and expenses shearers incur to get to the farms."
Sheep typically are sheared once a year for the wool to make wool products but also for the welfare of the animals, High said.
Ewes, which can weigh 90-350 pounds, and rams, which can weigh 90-400 pounds, are shorn with a shearing machine. Shearing is healthier for the animals, High says. It prevents them from overheating and allows owners to observe them for health and nutrition issues.
"Most sheep are housed in barns, which attract moisture, and this moisture can cause pneumonia," he says. "The health of the animals can be monitored better if producers are able to see the animals' skin by removing the bulky fleece, which in some breeds can reach 15 inches in length."
Also, the fleece can become mud-stained and matted and hide flea or fly infestations that aren't easily detected, High says.
The sheep shearing school will teach the Australian shearing method, which includes moving sheep with proper animal handling techniques to lessen stress on the sheep, he said.
For more information on the sheep shearing school, contact High at 614-246-8299.
Source: OSU Extension