I treated myself to a little pain therapy this past weekend, by attending shearing school. It was amazingly helpful, and important to learn, but also exhausting! The goal is to get the wool off in one "piece" with no secondary cuts that lower the wool quality.
We also learned how to use and maintain all the shearing equipment. Can you believe that on average shearers make less than $5/sheep to shear them. It is back breaking work that requires skill, strength, and expensive tools. No wonder shearers aim for speed. A good sheep shearer can get the wool off a sheep in less than 3 minutes!!! The top shearer in the world gets one done in 45 seconds - it blows my mind! I'm lucky to have one done in 8 minutes, much less be able to do sheep after sheep with no break.
The next time you see something made of wool you just keep in mind that there is no automated way to yank wool of a four legged creature. All shearing is done by hand every year on every wool sheep in the world. Be thankful for quality wool products, and appreciate their sustainability. In a world that is rapidly loosing people skilled in "trades" it is so important to encourage and support this kind of knowledge.