Shearing Sheep – Benefits of using Hand Shears

Hand shears are a timeless tool that have been used for centuries to shear and maintain the woolly coats of sheep. They offer several benefits over other shearing methods, providing both practical advantages and positive impacts on the sheep themselves. Let’s dive into the benefits of using hand shears for sheep.

Benefits of using hand shears
By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain]

While sheep owners will usually have hand shears for clipping off the odd dag, today most large scale shearing is done by electric clippers.

Clippers make quick, light work of shearing, and for farmers with hundreds of sheep it’s easy to see why it’s the preferred method. An experienced shearer can spend just a minute shearing a fleece off a sheep compared to about five minutes with hand shears. Factor in the cost of hiring a team of professional shearers and the ridiculously low prices that fleeces fetch, then it is understandable that electric clippers are preferred from a financial or business point of view.

But for smallholders with smaller flocks, hand shearing is more achievable. But why do it? What are the benefits of using hand shears on your flock?

Why use Hand Shears Instead of Clippers for Shearing Sheep?

The benefits of using hand shears are plenty, with the main benefit being to the welfare of the animal. Their precision, gentleness, close observation capabilities, and eco-friendly nature make them an excellent choice for both the welfare of the sheep and the environment.

benefits of using hand shears
By Yallanish (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0

Better Insulation for the Sheep

First, let’s think about the job that wool does. It insulates. It keeps a sheep warm in cold weather, but it also protects against the sun in hot weather. In fact, fire-fighting uniforms used to be made from wool for that very reason, heat protection.

Electric clippers cut very close, leaving little wool on the sheep. After being sheared with clippers, that sheep will suffer the effects of cold during the night and feel the effects of the sun of the skin during the day.

Imagine if that sheep has lambs. A cold sheep will use more of its energy reserves to stay warm, and as a result, milk production may lower.

Hand shears leave a short layer of wool on the sheep, preventing the temperature ‘shock’ cause when wool is removed with electric clippers. Leave a bit of insulation on the sheep and you get a happier, healthier animal well equipped to provide the best nourishment for its lambs.

benefits of using hand shears for sheep
Photo by Yallanish

Less Stress for the Sheep

Hand shears are quiet, compared to noisy clippers. This means a sheep is more relaxed whilst being sheared, which is better for its well-being. The slower pace means the animal is not rushed into the positions for shearing, and the whole process is a steady one.

Hand shears allow for precise and controlled shearing. With a skilled hand, the shearer can carefully remove the wool without causing any harm or discomfort to the sheep. This level of control is particularly important when dealing with sensitive areas such as the face and udder. By using hand shears, the shearer can ensure a smooth and even cut, minimising the risk of nicks, cuts, or uneven patches.

Better Observation of Sheep Health

Using hand shears also allows for better observation and care. The slower pace of hand shearing enables the shearer to closely examine the sheep’s skin for any signs of irritation, infection, or parasites.

This hands-on approach ensures that any potential health issues can be promptly identified and addressed, promoting the overall well-being of the flock.

Better Quality of Fleece from Hand Shearing

When it comes to shearing sheep, the quality of the fleece is of paramount importance. Hand shears, with their careful and controlled approach, a shearer is less likely to damage the fleece, than with the constant motion of electric clippers.

Hand shears allow for a meticulous and precise shearing process. The shearer has direct contact with the sheep’s wool, enabling them to carefully assess the fiber and make strategic cuts. This level of attention ensures that the fleece is removed cleanly and evenly, without causing unnecessary damage to the fibers. By avoiding unnecessary cuts or excessive breakage, hand shears help maintain the integrity and quality of each individual strand of wool.

The gentle handling helps preserve the softness, crimp, and overall quality of the fiber, leading to a more desirable and valuable fleece.

Hand shears also enable the shearer to address any specific requirements or challenges associated with the sheep’s fleece. For instance, if there are sections of the fleece that have variations in texture, such as coarser or matted areas, the shearer can navigate those areas with precision.

Financial Benefits of Using Hand Shears for Sheep

A set of hand blades cost about £30, compared to the hundreds that can be spent of electronic equipment. Or, if you don’t fancy the job yourself, a hand shearer does not usually require a minimum amount of sheep to be hired for a job.

Better for the Environment

It’s good news for the environment too. The carbon footprint in the manufacture of hand shears is much smaller than producing clippers, plus no electricity is required to use them, saving on energy use. It also means you can shear a sheep anywhere… in a field or pen without an electricity supply.

Smallholders, if you have a small flock of sheep, consider the benefits of hand shearing! Using hand shears over clippers helps preserve traditional skills that are still important, and offer significant advantages for smallholders.

Please share your thoughts on the benefits of using hand shears in the comments!

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