Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shearing Is Not for the Faint of Heart (or the Weak of Stomach)

Yesterday, I wrestled with a sheep. Today, my muscles are in screaming agony. It's all part of the fun of shearing.

There is a professional shearer who makes the rounds in April, but we only have three adult sheep, so we've been doing the shearing ourselves. It has to be done twice a year, especially for our ewes, which are a wool breed (read VERY VERY HAIRY). Because we don't have enough electrical outlets in our house, much less outside where the sheep are, A. bought a pair of hand shears. Also, electric shears are a little pricey. Hence, the hand shears. These are basically glorified scissors. In fact, I was wondering whether our Cutco scissors might be more effective.

Shearing a wool breed sheep with hand shears is an exercise in pain. And I don't even do the actual shearing, just the holding. A. always does the shearing. I'm the backseat shearer, anxiously watching the blade and periodically screeching, "Careful! Her skin is right there!" I'm terrified of cutting the sheep. I especially shudder when A. shears around the udders, because it's possible to cut a nipple right off. And then I would probably throw up, to say nothing of what the sheep might do. Anyway, they always get one or two nicks, but nothing major.

The hands-down most disgusting part of shearing is the cutting off of the dung tags. I bet you can guess what these are. They're hard to cut, being . . . stiff and all. But that's the shit (ha!) you really want to clean up, otherwise they might be susceptible to a particularly gag-me-with-a-spoon-inducing affliction called fly-strike. I won't go into details, but it involves maggots. Yes, farm life is fun. And also, really damn gross sometimes.

After about an hour's hard (haaaaard) labor, we managed to get Coco (that's the sheep) relatively neat-looking. She'll be much cooler and more comfortable now, to say nothing of maggot-free. And much as we enjoy bonding with our sheep by body-slamming them and giving them full-body haircuts, we're thinking that next year, we might use the professional shearer. Because while the cost of the professional shearer is as yet unknown to us, the chance to avoid handling dung tags? Priceless.


The Barber Bunch said...

Cool! I always thought it would be fun to shear a sheep!


Krysta said...

I can't think of anything to say... except Ouch!