Sheep need to be sheared! In this article, Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Stanwood vets will go over why you need to shear your sheep.
Why Sheep Get Sheared
Sheep need to be sheared because humans have spent centuries selectively breeding them to produce wool. Domesticated sheep do not shed their fleece as their wild counterparts do.
This means that they produce more wool than they can deal with which can lead to overheating, parasite infestation, and being unable to move under the weight of their own wool if they are not sheared each year.
Wild sheep will not require shearing because they naturally shed their coat in the spring.
Is it Painful For the Sheep?
Much like a human haircut, it depends on the person doing the cutting. If the shearing is done by a good professional shearer then it is normally painless. There is a chance accidents can happen and a sheep may startle. This might result in the sheep getting nicked. This is not a common problem for a professional shearer. The domestic sheep do secrete lanolin. Lanolin is a substance that helps heal the cuts meaning human assistance is often not needed for the cuts.
How to Shear a Sheep
We advise amateurs to not do this! This is a task that requires training and skill to avoid injuring the sheep. If you need assistance with managing your flock contact your vet they can direct you to resources such as reputable people or companies that shear sheep.
The shearing should be done in the spring after the cold weather is over and before the summer heat is a problem. Consult your local weather forecast to select dates for shearing and have a plan if you need to keep the sheep warm from a sudden cold snap.
To shear a sheep first you must separate the sheep from the herd. Take them to where you plan to shear them. The sheep are then either shaved down using a set of electric clippers or more traditionally a tool that looks like a large pair of scissors.
The sheep is normally placed on its side or sometimes seated on its rear. Sometimes the shearer will use a shearing bench to aid in keeping the fleece intact and off the ground. A shearing bench makes it more comfortable for both the sheep and saves putting strain on the human's back.
This process shouldn’t be done while the animal is standing without restraints; they are prey animals and will attempt to bolt. If they attempt to bolt they are more likely to be injured.
The goal is to take the fleece off in one large piece if it is going to be sold for wool. The wool is taken close to the skin. Pulling the skin gently to avoid the skin bunching and getting caught in the cutting implement. If the sheep is accidentally nicked it is recommended to treat it like any other cut. If you are concerned about a cut then contact your vet.
If You Don’t Shear Your Sheep
If it is a domesticated sheep breed and you don’t shear it you are putting the animal at risk!
We bred them to need to be sheared! They will not regain the ability to shed their fleece if you stop shearing them. You cannot undo centuries of selective breeding in your life time. If you have a domesticated sheep they need to be sheared.
Failure to shear them will result in overheating, fly maggot that will get into the fleece and then burrow into the sheep’s skin, and being unable to move/get up under the weight of their own wool.