AgriLife Extension sheep shearing school fills crucial void in the industry
April 7th, 2023
Writer: Susan Himes, 325-657-7315, Susan.Himes@ag.tam.edu
Contact: Dr. Reid Redden, 325-657-7324, Reid.Redden@ag.tamu.edu
SAN ANGELO- The Texas A&M AgriLife Sheep Shearing School was held Jan. 12-14 at the AgriLife Research and Extension Center. Over the three-day course, students learned how to shear sheep and received an overview of key aspects of the shearing industry.
With a decreasing number of professional shearers available worldwide, the annual school provides crucial skills needed for producers to care for their own flocks. Students, along with instructors, sheared over 200 animals during the hands-on workshop.
“Finding a sheep shearer can be challenging, especially for smaller operations, and there aren’t many people taking up the trade,” explained event organizer Dr. Reid Redden, associate professor and extension sheep and goat specialist.
“Most folks attending our workshop are looking to learn to shear their own flocks, as well as their neighbors’ flocks. By the end of the workshop, our students know how to shear a sheep from start to finish. But it takes years to become a master of the trade.”
AgriLife extension associate Jake Thorne and AgriLife research assistant Kraig Chandler worked alongside Redden to instruct the school’s students.
Both Thorne and Chandler attended the school’s inaugural session in 2016. Former attendee Katie Buerger also returned to work as an instructor this year.
“It was really a highlight for me to have Katie here,” said Redden. “She attended in 2017 as a student and now makes a living traveling the country as a professional shearer serving hundreds of clients. Although most of our attendees aren’t here to make it a full-time profession, it’s rewarding to know that we helped Katie develop a career and she is now sharing her skills and experiences with other students.”
In a profession with declining numbers, recruiting and training the next generation of shearers is key for the success of the animal fiber industry, stated Redden. In addition to sheep, students also had the opportunity shear angora goats. With a dozen students in the school, Redden was able to maintain what he considers an ideal student to teacher ratio.
“The 3-to-1 ratio really allows our students to receive individualized attention. It allows us to make sure we are able to watch each shearing and provide advice and guidance.”
The center has mostly Rambouillet sheep that are used for the schools. Fine wool sheep make up the majority of wooled sheep in Texas, and are considered somewhat difficult to shear.
“Their dense wool can be sticky due to the lanolin,” explained Redden. “By learning on fine wool sheep, it gives our students a great foundation for going on to shear other breeds as well.”