It’s Haircut Time at NWSS for our Four-Legged Friends

stockshowblog, News

Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, fills the air as you walk into Ames Activity Pavilion at the 2024 National Western Stock Show. As you enter the door, your eyes land on a year-old sheep being sheared. The sound you hear is a hand-held electronic clipper that Evan uses to shear his sheep. The once wooly sheep has lost a few pounds. 

The Stock Show showcase is an educational representation of what it would look like if Evan provided his sheep shearing service at a farm. Evan has been showcasing shearing sheep at the National Western Stock Show for the last four years but has been shearing sheep for seven years. Not only does he demonstrate shearing sheep at NWSS, but he also shears sheep on individuals’ farms. Typically, he shears anywhere from 1 to 20 sheep on a farm, sometimes more. 

Evan shears sheep following the process known as The Australian Method. It is a commonly used method because it is faster and easier than other methods. Sheep are placed on their back and rump in between Evan’s feet and knees. When placed in this position, the sheep are safe and sit still while being supported by Evan. It also allows for the sheep’s skin to be taught to smooth out the wrinkles. This is an important part of the process because it prevents the sheep from the possibility of being cut. Sheep do not have a lot of feeling in their skin, so shearing them does not hurt. At times it can feel ticklish, specifically across the backbone and legs. 

Once situated, Evan begins the process by shearing the belly wool and then moving toward the front legs, head, sides, and backbone. Starting at the belly allows the wool to be kept in one piece preserving the quality. 

A one-year-old lamb can produce roughly five pounds of wool when sheared for the first time. However, they can produce more than 20 pounds depending on age, breed type, and how long it has been since they’ve been sheared, etc.

Frequently, sheep are shorn for the summer months. Most individuals shear their sheep in the spring months removing all the wool for summer. However, it is not because they get too warm, rather it is a way to keep them clean. Sometimes, they are sheared in the Winter. This is because most ewes (female sheep) lamb in January. A shorn ewe will be easier to monitor and keep clean during the birthing process. Throughout the year, it is important to shear the sheep at least once to monitor their condition regarding nourishment and cleanliness. Wool acts as insulation during the cold winter months however during the summer, it helps keep them cool. Their wool grows continuously, and any time of the year is acceptable to shear them and will not harm them. 

 At Stock Show wool can be touched and taken home after shearing is complete. Wool events make up a large segment of the West’s premier livestock exhibition. 

Blog post by: Alicia Thern, 2024 NWSS Marketing & Communications Intern

Alicia is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay seeking a design, marketing, and communications degree.