Monday, June 10, 2013

[Sweetwater series] shearing

Sweetwater County's high mountain desert is a landscape that allows sheep to thrive in a year-round range operation. Many larger sheep operations call Sweetwater County and southwestern Wyoming home....all year long, rain, snow and shine. Here I told you a little bit about a typical day on the trail at sheep camp.

The big spring event before lambing starts is shearing, besides for lambs, the wool that the sheep provide is a large source of income for the ranchers. Many have contracts with the US Military to make clothing products for the troops.

There are shearing crews that come and move from ranch to ranch shearing the large bands for them. They are similar to custom harvesting crews. The first range sheep shearing that I went to was out on the desert near Black Butte Coal. It is completely mobile, panels are set up into multiple corrals that hold the sheep until they can be sorted and pushed into increasingly smaller corrals and eventually into an alley way that leads into the shearing trailer. They will shear one band at a time, as one band is finished the herders will have the next band waiting less than a mile away and will immediately bring them to the corrals as soon as the largest one is empty, with the help of dogs.
hanging out waiting for a hair cut

typical mobile shearing trailer        

In the picture above you can see the chute on the right side of the picture that the sheep go up into the trailer, once they are shorn, each shearer has a door (where you see the ewe coming out) to let them out into a pen to be gathered while the rest of the band is shorn.

Working inside the shearing wagon
The inside of the shearing trailer is set up for speed. Along the left hand side of is an alley way with swinging doors. When the shearer is ready for the next sheep, he opens his door and grabs one out of the alley (folks outside by the pens are charged with keeping a steady line of sheep in the trailer). And I'll tell you from experience.....this isn't as easy as it is with cattle. You get the sheep going in an alley (not big enough to turn around) and you turn around to bring another bunch....all of a sudden there are NO sheep in the ally and shearers are mad!

After the wool is off, the sheep are pushed out doors with ramps on the front side of the wagon and the shearer kicks the fleece out of the wagon, which is under the alleyway.

Out comes the wool, ready to be sorted and bagged
Bagged wool

And out the other side of the shearing wagon.......shorn sheep, ready to head to the lambing grounds, approximately 40 miles away.

They tried to tell me how fast these guys could shear and I'll tell you, I didn't believe them.....30 seconds is kinda slow on some crews. I'm fairly certain I'd come in somewhere around 30 minutes.


  1. This is cool to see...we used to have a crew that came in here and did it, lots of memories, we loved shearing when we were kids!


  2. I loved reading about the process! This is really cool.

    I also like that many of the places have contracts with the US Military. Very neat.


  3. Loved reading this! It's always fun for me to learn about different kinds of agriculture!