The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Shearing a Sheep (with video)

Approx Reading Time: 9 minutes

Having your own sheep can be an amazing experience, but shearing your sheep for the first time can be very scary. It is something that takes practice, but if you master it, it can be very rewarding. Before you start it is important that you read the Safety Instructions to Follow while Shearing a Sheep, and also check the Important Precautions before and while Shearing a Sheep.

If you are a beginner you can follow these steps to shear a sheep:

  • Step 1. Shear the Belly of the Sheep
  • Step 2. Shear the Right Hind Leg of the Sheep
  • Step 3. Shear the Tail and Left Hind Leg of the Sheep: You must move your right leg
  • Step 4. Shear the topknot from the head
  • Step 5. Shear the chin, chest, and neck of your sheep
  • Step 6. Shear the Shoulders of your Sheep
  • Step 7. Shear along the Back of your Sheep
  • Step 8. Shear along the Right Side of your Sheep: You must make series of diagonal blows
  • Step 9. Shear the Hindquarter and Right Leg of your Sheep
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Shearing a Sheep (with video) 1
By CstaffaCC BY-SA 3.0

Important Safety Instructions to Follow while Shearing a Sheep

  1. You must discourage any inappropriate handling of sheep by the staff of the farm. You must be prepared to leave a farm that has stressed or badly presented sheep.
  2. You must also be prepared to leave a farm if a safe and secure place is not provided for shearing the sheep. You can ask for an extra charge if you are a professional shearer when the sheep are dirty, wet, or have full bellies.
  3. You must always discuss the procedure of shearing before starting with the owner of the sheep to prevent any injuries or any accident.
  4. If you are a shearer under training make sure that there is a professional around to supervise.
  5. You must never shear a sheep under the influence of alcohol, anti-depression medication, sleep-inducing medications, and drugs.
  6. You must put on a pair of cut resistant gloves.
  7. If you find any external parasites or inflammations on the skin of the sheep you must report to the owner or the local veterinarian.
  8.  As soon as you finish your job change your clothing, gloves, and moccasins.
  9. You must disinfect the shears or the electric handpiece after shearing each animal to prevent the spread of infections and viruses like CLA, scabs, etc.
  10. You must treat the sheep with respect and kindness.
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Shearing a Sheep (with video) 2
By CstaffaCC BY-SA 3.0

Important Precautions before and while Shearing a Sheep

  1. You can use the Australian method where the sheep are set upon its rump and supported firmly between the shearer’s knees.
  2. You must keep the sheep off the pasture for at least 10 hours before shearing because full bellies may cause a lot of discomfort for both the animal and the shearer.
  3. Achieving empty bellies for newborn lambs include penning them for 4 hours without weaning.
  4. The wool of the sheep should not be wet otherwise it will damage both the fleece and the machinery.
  5. Always shear on a plane ground because the sloppy place will make it difficult.
  6. You must make sure that your sheep are free of dag.
  7. You must never try to shear your ewe 8 to 12 weeks after lambing because the milk veins are swollen and there is a higher risk of damaging them while shearing.
  8. You must prefer to shear the pregnant ewes before lambing. If the pregnant ewes cannot be completely shorn before lambing, they should be “crotched out” by shearing the wool from their udder, dock area, and from their head and eyes for breeds with wool on their face. This will make lambing and nursing a lot easier.
  9. Try not to combine different treatments like drenching and parasite control with shearing as this can strain the animals.
  10. If you are shearing the sheep at the onset of the winter season, make sure that they are provided with heating, a warm bed, shelter from rain and wind to prevent them from getting sick.
  11. If you are working in a sunny place and the weather is hot, make sure that the sheep are given some water after they are shorn.
  12. You must never try to rush through the shearing process in an attempt to increase your speed. The appearance of the shorn sheep (which should have a minimum number of cuts) and the condition of the fleece are as important as your speed. An expert shearer can shear a sheep in five minutes or less, which works out to about one hundred sheep per day.
  13. You must never try to lift the unshorn fleece with your left hand and attempt to shear it off. This lifts the skin as well, which will get cut while shearing. Instead, you must use your left hand to stretch the skin away from the shearer.
  14. You must make sure that the handpiece is well lubricated and sharpened regularly.

Step by Step Guide for Beginners to Shear a Sheep

STEP 1. Shear the Belly of the Sheep

You must make your first blow on the right-hand side, and must make your second blow on the left-hand side, then shear off the wool in between this area. You must make sure the first and second belly are set wide enough apart. This will make the rest of your task a lot easier down the same line.

You must shear the wool from the top of the brisket (breast bone) all the way down with a long blow to the open flank area.

STEP 2. Shear the Right Hind Leg of the Sheep

You must cover the teats of a ewe with your left or idle hand to prevent any harm to them. You must now shear across to remove the wool along the crotch. This blow may need to be repeated to ensure all the wool is taken off.

Now you must run the shears down the inside of the right leg.

STEP 3. Shear the Tail and Left Hind Leg of the Sheep:

You must move your right leg backward by a few inches to get better access to your sheep’s tail. You must then position the comb of the shears so it will enter the fleece at the top of the tail of your sheep. You must then make a blow from the top of the tail upwards along the backbone of your sheep.

You must repeat once or twice to clear all the wool from the tail of your sheep. Then you must turn your sheep approximately ninety degrees so that your right knee is in front of the brisket and your sheep’s right foreleg is in between your legs and his left side is exposed. Now you must shear the wool from your sheep’s left hind leg, starting at the toe and working your way up towards the hindquarters, finishing on the near side of the backbone of your sheep.

STEP 4. Shear the topknot from the head

Now that you have easy access to the sheep’s head in this position, you can take this opportunity to shear the topknot of fleece from your sheep’s head, if needed.

STEP 5. Shear the chin, chest, and neck of your sheep

You must shear from the brisket towards the neck, ending your blow just below your sheep’s chin. It should feel like you are “unzipping” the fleece. You must continue to make long parallel blows along the left side of his neck, ending first beneath his eye and then beneath his ear.

Use your left hand to hold its ear back so you don’t nick, tear, or cut it. For this, you must place your right foot in between your sheep’s hind legs and your left foot at the base of his spine, holding his body firmly between your knees. You must use your left hand to grab your sheep below the chin and stretch his head backward.

STEP 6. Shear the Shoulders of your Sheep

Try to shearfrom his left knee, then shear upwards towards his left shoulder, using one or two blows to clear the wool. You should clear the wool from the inside of his left foreleg. For this, you must shift your weight and maneuver your sheep slightly, so that you have better access to his left shoulder.

Because the skin on the shoulders can be quite wrinkled, you must use your left hand to pull the skin of your sheep’s shoulder tight. This will make your blows a lot smoother and help you to avoid nicking or cutting your sheep’s skin.

STEP 7. Shear along the Back of your Sheep

You must continue making these blows along the back of your sheep until you have gone one blow past the backbone and his entire left side is cleared of wool. You must then position the shears toward its tail and make a long straight blow all the way to his head, staying parallel to his spine. To achieve this, you must slide the sheep down along your shin until he is lying on his right side.

You must keep your right foot between his hind legs and your left foot under his shoulder.

STEP 8. Shear along the Right Side of your Sheep:

You must make series of diagonal blows along your sheep’s flank to clear the wool from his right side. Then use your left hand to put pressure on your sheep’s right shoulder joint to keep him steady. 

STEP 9. Shear the Hindquarter and Right Leg of your Sheep

You mustshear in a curved motion from your sheep’s flank to his right hind leg. When the leg is cleared, you must make the final few blows to clear the last of the wool from your sheep’s hindquarters.

Final remarks

In conclusion to this blog post, I would say that you must carefully read, understand and follow the safety instructions, precautions, and step-by-step guide to get the desired results when you are shearing your sheep yourself.