Most sheep, including Merino, Suffolk and Shetland, should be sheared at least once a year, ideally before lambing so there is a cleaner environment for baby lambs, or in the spring because the hotter the weather the harder it becomes to shear heavy wool.
However, there are some breeds that require shearing twice a year. Breeds such as Lincolns, Icelandics and Cotswolds have wool that can grow very fast – up to one inch per month, in fact – so they should be sheared more often.
Can Sheep Die If Not Sheared?
As sheep are typically unable to shed, which means that if a sheep goes a very long time between being shorn, several problems can occur that may eventually result in death. However, not all sheep will suffer the same fate. Again, it depends on the breed of sheep.
Some breeds, such as the Merino sheep, when not sheared have coats that become so thick that they die from heat exhaustion during the summer months.
Another issue can be that uncontrolled growth can cause matting or tangling, which can constrict blood flow, cause painful sores, and prevent sheep from moving properly, which can make sheep more susceptible to predator attacks.
There can also be an issue with mites, maggots and other pests that will only be too happy to call a sheep’s thick coat of fleece home and cause infections in the process.
How Long Does it Take to Shear a Sheep
A professional sheep shearer can shear a sheep in two to three minutes, though this can depend on the size and condition of the sheep. In elite-competitive shearing (yes, that’s really a thing), the time taken to shear a sheep is often less than two minutes.
If you’re wondering what the world record for how fast someone can shear a sheep is, it’s just 37.9 seconds.
While most sheep are sheared with electric shears or shearing machines, some are manually sheared with scissors or hand blades.
Does Shearing Hurt Sheep?
If done correctly, shearing won’t hurt a sheep. Some farmers shear their own sheep, while many others prefer to hire professional sheep shearers that are able to efficiently and quickly shear without causing cuts or injury.
Either way, despite the small risk of cuts or injury, sheep are much better off being sheared than not.
When is the Best Time to Shear?
While it isn’t necessarily a big issue to shear sheep too early, as mentioned, sheep should ideally be sheared before lambing or in the spring before the weather becomes too hot. Shearing sheep in winter is often avoided because freshly shorn sheep require better nutrition and shelter in colder months.
It’s also best to hold off feed and water at least eight hours before shearing too. Sheep should not be sheared when wet either because it increases the risk of injury to both sheep and shearer.
How Much Does It Cost to Shear a Sheep?
The cost to shear a sheep can depend on the geographical location, shearer, and the number of sheep you want sheared. Costs can also depend on whether drive time, gas and set-up are required.
Typically, you can expect to pay at least $15 each for flocks of 15 sheep and fewer. With more volume, the price becomes cheaper, such as $12 each for flocks of 16-50, and $10 each for flocks of 51-100.
Some professional sheep shearers set a minimum charge, regardless of how many sheep are sheared, which is usually in the range of $100-150.
Other Things to Know Before Shearing
Before shearing sheep, there are a few other recommendations that we recommend you follow. These include:
- Watch the weather forecast
- Make sure that you are able to provide an area that is dry, under cover, flat and large enough for the shearer
- If you are unable to keep your sheep dry, make sure that you give the shearer adequate notice
- If you need to reschedule, don’t expect a new date immediately