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A Cut Above The Rest

Grace Heritage Ranch

Now that we’ve decided on scissor hand-shearing, what’s next? Just trim the fur, right? Yes, and no. There is actually a method developed by (you guessed it) the shearers in New Zealand. There is a pattern of cuts, called blows, that will keep the fleece basically in one piece when all is said and done. The sheep is held in seven different positions while being sheared, each one designed to fairly immobilize the sheep while also allowing a single shearer to get all the wool.

These positions involve sitting the sheep on its haunches, moving the head and legs around your legs, and bending over the animal the whole time you are working. It’s almost literally back-breaking work. The first section to be done is the belly. Unable to do it alone, one person held the sheep in the sitting position while I trimmed the wool. This wool generally is discarded since it’s pretty dirty, but it still must be shorn.

With some of us family members not being quite as tall or strong as others, it was nigh impossible for one lacking experience such as I to shear the sheep entirely in the New Zealand fashion. I therefore had to improvise by shearing them on the goat milking stanchion once the belly was done. I do believe the sheep were happier this way anyway. They got to keep their faces busy in a dish of alfalfa crumbles while they were getting a haircut.

Because some parts of the wool are more desirable than others, it was a bit of a challenge to try and make sure I separated the useful wool from the garbage wool. Since I’ve never washed or spun it, it’s hard to make the call on what to keep. The internet can only educate you so far before experience must take over.

To learn even more and get hands-on experience, join us at Grace Heritage Ranch for our Saturday morning tours. We are located just 30 minutes northeast of Harlingen, TX near Santa Monica. Please visit us at www.GraceHeritageRanch.com or www.Facebook.com/VisitGHR . For a recorded message, please call 1-855-447-8687. We offer both public and private tours.

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