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Shearing


I have a love/hate relationship with shearing. For anyone who raises fiber animals, shearing is the culmination of 6 months or a year of tender care, good nutrition and careful management of the animals we love. It’s the payoff for all the hard work. It’s a great thing. This is the way I’ve felt about the llamas and alpacas for the 4 years I’ve owned them. They are sheared once a year, in the spring, by Sean Price, a wonderful shearer from Figment Ranch in Cypress, TX.   Once the animals have been sheared and the wonderful fiber is bagged up I get to run my fingers through it and not have to worry about getting spit at or having the animal dart away. I get to decide which wool fleece or which mohair fleece it will be blended with.  It’s yummy.

The goats however are a different matter. For the 6 years I’ve owned them, I have always sheared them myself. It was a bargain I made with my husband early on before I understood what I was promising. I would only have as many goats as I was willing to shear. I promise. Sounds like a reasonable approach, doesn’t it? I didn't realize at the time that shearing is a special skill that doesn't come easy to old fat ladies.  The first shearing I had two goats, Amos and Andy and it took me a week to get them sheared. I would work as long as we both could stand it and return again the next day to do it again.  I have a milking/grooming stand and a chair with wheels so I could sit and shear without having to bend myself over which my back would really object to. I traded off between my sharp scissors and my horse clippers.  By the third or fourth shearing I had learned better technique and it was only taking me a couple of hours per animal. I also had added a couple of goats so it was still taking me nearly a week doing just one animal per day. Bernadette has always been fun to shear. She has less body coverage than the other goats and her fleece is wavy, not curly. Her fleece has almost no wax in it so the clippers just glide across her. She may be a cross bred since no one knows her background. The lady who gave Bernie to me had rescued her as a kid.   She also had Bernie's horns removed so while shearing her goes quickly, she doesn't have any handles.

A couple more years went by and my friend Nancy, who has dairy goats, decided she wanted to focus on them so gave me her two Angora goats.  As my herd got larger, shearing became a horrible black cloud that I could see coming at me twice a year.  I love all my goats but shearing was not a good thing.  After I had finished with them they all looked like a four year old had gotten a hold of some scissors and gone crazy.  Not the look I was after and not good for preserving all the wonderful fiber.

I have tried over the years to convince Sean that he needed to broaden his view and start shearing goats. Mine in particular. No go. He likes llama fleece with no wax or lanolin and isn’t ready to “contaminate” his clippers – his word, not mine. So I have been on the hunt for a goat shearer.

Enter Stephen Franco. Stephen is from west Texas and has been shearing goats in this area for a number of years. The lesson is you have to keep asking for what you want and sooner or later someone who knows the answer will let you know.  Thanks to Cynthia who passed Stephen’s name on to me.

Stephen uses a technique that's a bit different from the sheep shearing I've seen demonstrated.  First step was to throw the goat on the mat and shear the underbelly and the insides of all four legs.

Then all four legs are tied together and the outside of the legs is sheared.

Then Stephen started to roll the goat over....

and over...

and over.

Then the feet get trimmed.

Then this one goes back to the stall and it's time for next one.

In the end I had eight wonderfully sheared goats, eight bags of great fiber with very few second cuts, no sweat, no hassle, no black cloud, no fuss, no muss.  It was SO COOL!!

This fall my goats were all sheared in under an hour. The entire process including Stephen setting up his shearing station and tearing it down afterwards, shearing all eight of my goats, trimming all feet and changing clothes only took an hour and a half. Wow. I couldn’t be happier. Each goat took so short an amount of time that none of them got upset or bored and anxious, expect possibly waiting in the stall without knowing exactly what was about to happen to them.  Stephen is my friend for life!  Now shearing time will be a great time of year!