ROSEBURG, Ore. — After several years of work, applying for grants and buying and modifying equipment, Oregon Sheep Growers Association members staged their first sheep shearing school last week in Roseburg, Ore.
Participants learned how to handle the sheep, lay out and pick fleeces, use and care for shearing equipment and how to disinfect and suture nicks and cuts to the animal should they happen. Students came away from the school with a certificate of completion and the go-ahead to shear small flocks for hire.
Dan Dawson, a sheep grower and shearer from Roseburg who was part of the team, sees training young sheep shearers as a way for them to earn money when regulations bar them from being employed in most jobs until they are 18 years old.
“One 18-year-old young man came up to me at the end of the school and told me that he had done a lot of hard things in his life but that this had been the hardest,” Dawson said. “I reminded him that it may be hard, but at least they don’t have to be 18 to earn money shearing sheep.”
In addition to Dawson, volunteer instructors included Kathryn Ritchie and John Fine from Roseburg and Wendy Valentine from Bandon.
During the four-day school, four high school students and one adult sheared more than 350 sheep. The program was financed with grant money from the American Sheep Industry’s Let’s Grow program and the Oregon Sheep Commission.
“We’ve been trying to get a sheep shearing school in Oregon for a long time, because we have a shortage of small flock shearers,” John Fine, a longtime sheep grower and former FFA teacher, said. “I had three requests to hire the graduates of this school in the first two days after the school. One producer had too many sheep for a student to handle but two of them will be a good fit.”
“In the past, Gene Pirelli (an Oregon State University Extension agent) and I tried to figure out how to bring Washington State University’s shearing trailer down from Moses Lake but it is was too difficult because of its size,” he said. “When Dan Dawson found one that we could easily collapse and haul on the highway, we set to work and got the funds to buy it.”
The trailer is only eight feet wide but pulls out to 20 feet wide, which provides training space, he said. The trailer complete with shearing equipment is the property of the Oregon Sheep Growers Association.
Ritchie, a sheep shearer with a small flock, used her experience of attending shearing schools in both North and South Dakota.
“We were glad to see so many young people in the class because that’s the best time to start,” she said. “Though the enrollment is limited to 10, having half that many worked well for the students because they got so much one-on-one attention. I thought we did well for our first year and after spending some time to appraise what we did this time we’ll be ready to set the date for the next one.”
The fees for the school were $250 for adults, $225 for students and included a one-year membership in OSGA. To receive information on the next school, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the ASI Let’s Grow Programs, visit http://sheepusa.org/Growourflock Home