Shearing Checklist for Owners

I very much appreciate it when farmers ask me, “what should I do to be prepared for shearing?”  It means they are thinking about the fact that there IS preparation to be done!  I often say with a sideways (and somewhat rueful) grin, “you wouldn’t believe the things that happen….”  Those ‘things’ will, I hope, surprise and astound you.   So:  here is a very simple checklist to ensure that you and your animals are ready when the shearer arrives. Below each bolded checklist item are examples in italics  of how NOT to be prepared; and every single example is something that has happened. Yep.

  1. √ YES Your animals are locked into a small space such as a barn stall or small paddock. It’s even nicer if the camelids are already haltered. 
    x NO Animals are running loose in the field. Animals are in a huge barn and bouncing off of the walls and/or fighting with each other.  Different sets of animals are in different barns far away from each other (necessitating setting up equipment multiple times).  And … what NOT to say to the shearer: “You’re gonna have to help me catch them.”

  2. √ YES Electricity is available and has been tested.  If necessary, run an extension cord. 
    x NO There are no electrical outlets, or they do not work.  What NOT to say to the shearer: “You mean you need electricity?”  “Oh, I will have to go find some extension cords and run them (400 feet) from the house. It should only take 20 minutes or so.”

  3. √ YES If rain is in the forecast, lock your animals under shelter BEFORE it starts raining. If there is no earthly way you can keep animals dry unless you bring them into your living room, call the shearer well in advance to let him/her know this.  BTW we are perfectly happy to shear in your living room if that is what it takes.
    x NO You have left the animals out in the field and they are soaking wet.  You have ‘washed’ the barn floor and there are puddles everywhere. The animals are still out in the field in the rain. What NOT to say to the shearer after he/she has already arrived:  “Well, I guess you’ll just have to come back another day.”

  4. √ YES You are dressed in your farm duds and ready to help (and have extra helpers on hand if this is a large flock). Shearing is a cooperative effort.
    x NO
    You are wearing city clothes, high heels, flip flops (yes this really happened), you are babysitting someone else’s 2 year old child (yes, this also happened), or you are getting ready to go out to do something else.  What NOT to say to the shearer, as you point to the barn: “the animals are over there.  Let me know when you are done.”

  5. √ YES If you want to preserve the fiber for processing or selling, you  have bags labelled for each animal.  Even if you do not wish to keep the fiber, you should still be prepared to collect it.
    x NO You ask the shearer, “where are my bags?” (yes, this happened also).  (The truth is that I usually bring extra bags because I know that often folks don’t have the right type on hand. But don’t count on every shearer doing this.)

  6. √ YES You are prepared to pay after shearing is complete.  Most shearers accept cash and checks; some can take credit card payments with phone apps.
    x NO You indicate that you are broke but will have money next week. Some shearers will invoice, but too many of us have not been paid after the fact for very hard work so there may be a fee for invoicing and payment after the fact.

  7. √ YES And finally … you are there. At your farm.  Remember, these are your animals.
    x NO
    You leave for work, go inside the house, send a disinterested teenager to be with us.  You are inebriated; you are having a party and entertaining guests; you are in the middle of a major domestic quarrel; you are having a conference call with your work.  

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