Multi-state safe and humane shearing workshops to address the shortage of US sheep shearers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $19,940.00
Projected End Date: 04/01/2026
Grant Recipient: South Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Jaelyn Whaley
South Dakota State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Small acreage farms have expanded interest in raising sheep
creating the need for more resources and programs to promote
success and sustainability. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of
small (≤ 99 sheep) U.S. producers has increased by 27% (USDA NASS
2017, 2012). While this is uplifting for the industry there is a
lack of sheep specific specialists including sheep shearers and
is a barrier for expanding/new operations. Yearly shearing is
critical for the wellbeing of wool sheep and the industry has a
shortage of skilled shearers. Smaller flocks (and minorities) are
disproportionally affected by the shortage. Travel and time costs
for professional shearers are greater on a per head basis for
smaller versus larger flocks. Therefore, finding a local
professional shearer can be challenging and cost prohibitive for
smaller producers. Learning to shear sheep is an art that takes
hands on practice and guidance and is difficult to learn safely
from other traditional learning sources (text, video, etc.). To
fulfill demand, additional shearers in local regions need to be
trained to defray travel and time cost of hiring a professional
shearer. This project is proposing 4 regional sheep shearing
schools over 2 years in SD, ND, MT, and WY.

Project objectives from proposal:

The main objectives for this project are to

  • Host regional shearing schools to instruct beginning shearers
    on the safe and humane shearing pattern of sheep
    and improvement of skill of intermediate shearers.
  • Reduce risk of injury to sheep shearers by providing
    instruction on proper handling techniques and stretching
  • Minimize and reduce stress of sheep and improve animal
    welfare through proper shearing technique.
  • Provide mentorship, encouragement, and community for shearers
    to promote their success.
  • Improve the quality of wool clips and therefore value by
    instructing on proper shearing technique and handling.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.