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Sheep Shearing School Improves Wool Quality and Creates Jobs

The Issue

The lack of qualified shearers is a major problem for both the range and small flock sheep operations in Mendocino and Lake counties and statewide.

The skills needed are difficult to learn without "hands-on" training. Sheep shearers are also often a source of educational information about management and health care and play an important role in delivery information to their clientele - the sheep producers.

What Has ANR Done?

Working with Umpaqua College in Roseburg, Ore., and the National Sheep Shearing School, UC Cooperative Extension hosts one of the only sheep shearing schools in California. As part of the course, a national instructor teaches the New Zealand method of shearing sheep and care and maintenance of equipment. In addition, participants are trained in the basics of sheep health care, such as the vaccination schedule, teeth maintenance, and determining a ewe's condition for breeding.

Participants are evaluated on their abilities and are certified at four levels: beginning, intermediate, advanced and professional by UCCE farm advisor John Harper. A beginning shearer certificate enables a shearer to effectively shear a personal flock. Intermediate certification indicates that the shearer can commercially shear small farm flocks. Advanced certification qualifies as a commercial shearer. Professional certification is the elite shearer who could enter and win national and international competitions.

The Payoff

Trained shearers improve wool clip and earn money

Sheep shearing training and certification provides participants with a new marketable skill that can add to their income or to the income of a ranching operation. As of 2006, 126 participants have received certification. Of those, 81 received beginning shearer status, 23 attained intermediate shearer status, 18 became advanced shearers and 4 received professional shearer certification. The price of shearing averages $2 per head, varying based on the animal's breed and gender. In an eight-hour day a trained shearer can clip between 25 and 100 head, producing income or savings of $50 to $200 per day. The 18 advanced shearers and 4 professional shearers average $10,000 for 3 month's work shearing sheep.

A secondary impact is the overall improvement in how California wool is processed. Certified shearers have reduced "second cuts" (small short fibers that can't be used for milling) when compared to non-certified shearers. In addition, shearers travel to many sheep farms and have the opportunity to extend the science-based sheep care information that they learned in the UCCE sheep shearing school to their clients.


Supporting Unit:

UC Cooperative Extension, Mendocino and Lake counties
John Harper, UCCE farm advisor, (707) 463-4495, jmharper@ucdavis.edu