Finding a Shearer
For new breeders of fiber livestock, finding a livestock shearer may be very perplexing because shearing is not a service that is likely to be listed in the local phone book. For breeders with small herds of sheep, llamas, alpacas, or goats, another difficulty is that it is not economical for a professional shearer to service a small farm operation with less than 50 animals–especially with the current cost of gas. Fortunately the online Livestock Shearers Directory lists farms in the United States and Canada, and it also lists farms that host an annual shearing day.
Combining Resources for Small Farms
Hosting an annual shearing day enables several small farms to bring their animals to one location. That way, there will be enough animals to justify the travel and setup expenses for a shearer to get to that location. In addition, there will be extra people to assist with all the various chores associated with shearing. An added benefit is that the hosting farm can charge extra over the shearer’s cost to help cover all the other expenses associated with shearing.
Responsibilities of the Hosting Farm
To treat your shearer well and attract him or her to return another year, you need to fulfill certain responsibilities.
- Be there at the agreed upon time. Your shearer needs to get to his or her next appointment. They usually want to start early in the morning. So spend a few days prior to the shearing day getting the facilities ready, check lists, bags, etc. cleaned, organized and ready to start promptly.
- Have the animals penned, lined up, and ready to be shorn. The shearer does not want to stand around waiting for you to chase animals out in the pasture.
- Make sure the animals are dry. Put them in a dry, unbedded barn the night before if it is dewy or looks like rain. Alternatively, use a blower to blow out vegetable matter from their fleece. Set up fans at blanket height to help dry out moisture.
- Have enough helpers. This may include catching animals, sacking wool, sweeping the floor, running errands, etc. There’s plenty of jobs to go around.
- Do NOT trim feet, worm animals, etc. at shearing time, unless agreed to by the shearer in advance. Most shearers want to shear as many animals as possible in a given time. Doing herd management chores in conjunction with shearing slows down the shearer’s job. Some shearers will worm your sheep and trim feet at shearing time; for a fee. Ask in advance.
- Call your shearer when an unforeseen event that prevent shearing.
- Keep dogs away from the shearing area floor. If you use dogs to herd livestock, try to keep the dogs away from viewing the shearing. Dogs may cause the livestock to get nervous and difficult to handle.
- Provide beverages, snacks, perhaps even lunch.
- Periodically ask the shearer if he needs a break.
- Have a checklist of every animal being shorn. That way, there will be no disagreements on the tally of animals.
- Pay the shearer promptly when the job is complete.
What to Expect From the Shearer
A good shearer will be dependable, do good work, shear your animals the way you want, and charge a fair price. You can expect your shearer to do the following:
- Call if he, or she, will be late. Sometimes a previous shearing job takes longer than expected. If so, the polite thing to do is notify those next on the list.
- Be very careful in not spreading disease from farm to farm.
- Charge a fair price. Shearers are paid on a per head basis. They should not be asking for additional tips.
- Handle the animals, especially pregnant females safely.
- Avoid serious cuts, especially on the ears, vulva, teats, penis, and scrotum.
If a shearer does not live up to your expectations, make a note not rehire him or her. Most shearers are good people and work hard.