How to Use Electric Sheep Shears

Electric sheep shears remove wool from sheep effectively and efficiently
Electric sheep shears remove wool from sheep effectively and efficiently (Image: mouton tondu image by Philippe LERIDON from

Electric sheep shears are a valuable tool for both wool production and sheep care for those who know how to use them. However, electric sheep shears, also known as clippers, are difficult to learn how to use, and the risk of injury to sheep and shearer can be significant. Sometimes, though, owners have few alternatives because there are so few professional sheep shearers still working today.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric sheep shears
  • Clipper oil
  • Extra shearing blades
  • Tarp
  • Wound care ointment or spray

Verify that the electric shears you are planning to use are approved by the manufacturer for use on sheep and will not overheat in the face of such heavy use. Purchase at least three replacement blades for substitution when the one in use becomes dull. Obtain the specific brand of blade oil recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure to use the right oil for the job as other oils may stain the sheep's fleece or not provide proper lubrication for the intense heat and speed of your electric shears.

Set up your shearing area in a location that provides safe and effective access to a power source. Make sure that all temporary power cords are safely secured in places where they will not be a tripping hazard or be damaged by sheep stepping or chewing on them. Consider temporarily securing the cord for your electric shears through a series of large eye bolts along a post, wall or ceiling to bring the power source in from overhead like the commercial shearers do for maximum safety and ease of shearing.

Study the owner's manual to verify that you have correctly attached your shearing blades and guards to the body of the electric shears. Make a few practice cuts on an old pelt if you are unfamiliar with the electric shears you will be using to get the feel of how they handle and the depth and width of the cut. Pay careful attention to the way you hold the electric shears to minimize fatigue in your wrist and hand while still keeping the cutting blade at a correct and safe angle.

Remember to oil the blades periodically during use, usually after every couple of sheep sheared for beginners or at whatever time interval is recommended by the manufacturer. Apply the oil directly to the cutting surfaces to help the blades slide accurately and provide a smooth cut. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and clean the shears if they become clogged with dirt or dust to keep them functioning optimally. Always clean them thoroughly after a shearing session and before being stored for long periods.

Cut the wool with the electric shears approximately 1/2 inch above the skin, being careful not to press down onto the skin and nick or cut the sheep. Remove the wool in long, continuous strokes and do not cover the same area multiple times, producing second cuts (short bits of wool that were missed on the first stroke), which decrease the value and usefulness of the wool for spinners and weavers. Map out a mental picture of the series of parallel strokes you plan to make before actually beginning shearing to quickly and efficiently remove the wool from the sheep. Use smaller electric trimmers to even up your cuts if the appearance of your shorn sheep is a priority, such as when showing competitively, but do not add these short bits to your main fleece.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many sheep farmers prefer to do all routine care at shearing time. While the sheep is confined for shearing you can trim hooves, administer vaccinations, give a health exam and repair or replace ear tags.
  • Recruit adequate help. You will need assistants to guide sheep to and from the shearing floor, to help hold them in position and to remove fleece and process it.
  • Only experienced shearers should attempt to use electric sheep shears. They are extremely sharp and injury to the animal or inexperienced shearer is unfortunately common.
  • Never cut in the direction of your free hand or the hands of others. Electric shears can cause severe lacerations if they make contact with skin.
  • Use care that you do not strain your back. Few people are accustomed to laboring bent over an uncooperative 120-pound sheep.
  • Unfortunately, nicks and cuts on the sheep being sheared do occasionally happen. Coat any wounds with one of the various commercial products intended for this purpose to close the injury and prevent contamination by bacteria or insects.

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