Sheep shearing is the process by which the woolen fleece of a sheep is cut off. The person who removes the sheep's wool is called a shearer. Typically each adult sheep is shorn once each year (a sheep may be said to have been "shorn" or "sheared", depending upon dialect). The annual shearing most often occurs in a shearing shed, a facility especially designed to process often hundreds and sometimes more than 3,000 sheep per day.
Sheep are shorn in all seasons, depending on the climate, management requirements and the availability of a wool classer and shearers. Sheep shearing is also considered a sport with competitions held around the world. Today large flocks of sheep are mustered, inspected and possibly treated for parasites such as lice before shearing can start. Then shorn by professional shearing teams working eight hour days, most often in spring, by machine shearing. Typical mass shearing of sheep today follows a well-defined workflow:
- remove the wool
- throw the fleece onto the wool table
- skirt, roll and class the fleece
- place it in the appropriate wool bin
- press and store the wool until it is transported.
A sheep is caught by the shearer, from the catching pen, and taken to his “stand” on the shearing board. It is shorn using a mechanical handpiece. The wool is removed by following an efficient set of movements, devised by Godfrey Bowen in c. 1950, (the Bowen Technique) or the Tally-Hi method developed in 1963 and promoted by the Australian Wool Corporation.
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