Wool harvesting is an international industry found in many rural areas, creating a demand for experienced sheep shearers to the point that sheep shearing has become an international sport. Professional shearers use high-powered hand clippers to remove fleece from sheep. Because of its seasonal nature, professional sheep shearing is an international job with positions throughout the world including the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain.
Professional sheep shearing requires no high school education. However, employment demand in this field focuses on shearing skills and shearing speed. Competitions award shearers' skill, and rankings indicate they meet high quality standards. Individuals new to this career can obtain on-the-job training experience and/or take sheep shearing training courses, which are available through local agricultural colleges, universities or through organizations such as The American Sheep Industry Association.
Sheep shearers must shear a sheep in two minutes or less while maintaining quality standards. Employers expect sheep shearers to have a skill classification ranking from competition or formal proof of experience. The ranking scale for professional shearers includes the highest-ranking class, called open class, followed by senior, intermediate and junior classes. Salaries for professional sheep shearers vary depending upon the country. Sheep shearers in the U.S. can expect a farm worker's average salary of $7.83 to $16.71 per hour and $16,280 to $34,750 a year.
Sheep shearers must have experience dealing with livestock -- especially sheep. Shearers must be able to lift and carry live sheep from holding pens to shearing stations. Professional shearers must have experience using power-driven clippers and hand shears while handling the sheep as they remove its wool. Employers expect shearers to remove wool from sheep in one piece with minimized cuts to sheep’s skin.
Personal Attributes Required
Individuals seeking a job in professional sheep shearing must be willing to work outdoors and work effectively unsupervised or as a part of a team. Strong confidence in handling livestock and an ability to communicate effectively with management is essential. Individuals seeking a job in professional sheep shearing must expect to travel for employment and work flexible hours with shifts of 8 to 12 hours.
- “International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics”; Different Skill Levels in the Wool Harvesting Industry; Diane E. Gregory; 2009
- American Sheep Industry Association; Upturn in Fortunes for Sheep Shearing Industry; 2005
- Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages; May, 2010
- New Mexico State University; NMSU Offers Sheep-shearing Training; Jane Moorman; 2010
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