Scott Moss: Shepherd, wool processor, dyer & spinner
We have eight adult sheep including six breeding ewes and three or four shearlings (year-old lambs) to be shorn in early June each year. One of our adult sheep is a Soay wether that we have not been able to catch for the past four or five years. So each year, there are about a dozen sheep to be shorn.
At my age (74 in January 2018), I find that I can shear perhaps four sheep in a day using a hand blade rather than electric shears. I prefer the hand blade because I am not in a hurry and I can do the business out in the field without batteries or mains electricity. The principles of shearing are the same for blades and electric shears. Most important, the sheep being shorn must be held so it does not wriggle or try to get away. Generally this involves keeping all four of its feet either off the ground or with the sheep on its side so that it does not feel it can get up or scrabble away.
It is of course easier to hire a shearer to do the whole flock in one day or, with the number in my flock, in an hour or so. I have several reasons for shearing the sheep myself. These are:
- I can combine tasks: especially, trimming feet and shearing whilst I have the sheep settled and under control.
- The flock is small enough that I know the sheep and they know me. Admittedly, they are not pets and, apart from our breeding ram, Diesel, they all maintain some distance except when being fed. Because I know the sheep, I know what to look for in addition to shearing. If they have all recently had their feet trimmed but I have noticed one limping or, worse, kneeling to graze, then I can take the opportunity to check for foot infection or swellings of the joints.
- And, of course, it saves the cost of the shearer.
I went on a hand-shearing course put on by the Wool Marketing Board and I can confirm that it was well worth the money (about £100). As I do some shearing for other smallholders in the area and taking into account the saving from hiring a shearer, that cost can soon be recouped almost immediately.
I will include on this page some photographs of me shearing in June 2018.