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Blade Shearing Sheep: Background History

Cutting the wool from a sheep is a physically demanding job requiring practiced ability. Since the 1850's shearing has been carried out by professional shearers especially in the intensive, sheep grazing regions in the world.

Until the introduction of machines in the 1880's, sheep were blade-shorn using hand-operated shears. By the 1940's, machines, powered by generators or electricity, had largely replaced the traditional blade-shearing technique.

There are areas in the world where blade shearing retains a cost effective advantage over machine shearing:

  • Where sheep numbers and farming practices do not justify the cost of setting up machines in a purpose-built shed.
  • New Zealand High Country Standard machine shearing removes all the wool from the sheep. Blade shearing leaves 10mm of wool still covering the sheep.

Commercial shearing team at work in New Zealand

In a harsh, cold climate, this covering:

  1. Protects of sheep against the cold and sunburn,
  2. Reduces stress on sheep,
  3. Increases wool growth,
  4. Reduces food intake required of the shorn sheep for two weeks after shearing,
  5. Results in heavier birth weight of lambs.

New Zealand is the only country in the world where the shearers have continued to innovate and refine the blade-shearing technique.

Working an eight-hour day, in purpose-built shearing sheds, New Zealand blade shearers have an average out put of 150 - 200 sheep per day.

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