Randy Stitzel is an ASI certified shearer working mostly in PA, NJ, DE and MD. For him, sheep shearing is a family business, as well as family history. Randy is a 3rd generation shearer and has taught the skill to his sons. His grandfather lived on a farm just outside of Fleetwood, PA, and started shearing sheep 115 years ago – at a time when most farmers kept a few sheep to supply the family with wool for knitting.
I asked Randy his advice on several basic shearing questions that many shepherds will find helpful, whether novice or veteran sheep owner.
What is the best way to locate a reputable shearer?
Most people actually find a shearer by word of mouth, more than any other method. This is really a big thing. People are going to spread your name when you do your best with their flock.
The ASI (American Sheep Industry) also has an online database of shearers in the USA and Canada. You can find it at http://www.sheepusa.org/Shearer_Directory and you can search the directory by state. All shearers that are ASI-Certified will have “Certified Shearer” next to their name. The website will also list each shearer’s work area, time of year when they work, hometown, phone number(s) and email (if any).
How should I describe my flock to a potential shearer?
What breed and how many animals you have. What kind of facilities you have. What the shearer needs to bring. If you’re able to keep animals dry or not.
Should I tell my shearer about any diseases or injuries in my flock?
If you know about it, yes. A lot of the time small flock owners don’t notice some problems until shearing. Over the years the most common health problems have been foot problem and this is why we bring multiple pairs of hoof trimmers.
How close to lambing is it safe to shear a pregnant ewe?
No closer than 4-6 weeks, but further away is even better.
What should I do to prepare for shearing day?
Sheep should be corralled and food should be withheld for a few hours prior to shearing. Shearing is stressful on sheep and the calmer the animals are before and during shearing, the better job I can do and the more wool I can get off.
I bring my own boards but you can ask if you need to provide shearing boards or anything else for the shearer to use. All certified shearers need to follow the wool guidelines set by the ASI.
Do you use different clippers for different flocks, i.e., show, general or handspinning flocks? If so, how do they differ?
Yes. The animal or breed dictates what comb should be used with the blades. That’s why I ask what breed a flock is when I talk with any new customers.
Combs either have short bevels and less teeth or longer bevels and more teeth (combs have about 10-20 teeth on them). The teeth on the combs spread out the fibers. Since fine wool breeds have more densely arranged fibers than medium or coarse wool breeds, they need to be shorn using a comb with many teeth so that the wool is spread out better for shearing.
For handspinning flocks, you need to use the right comb to make the shearing go easier and take you time to minimize 2nd cuts.
I hope some of this information that Randy shared will help you as you prepare to shear this season! Perhaps you will enter a fleece (or more) in the Tunis Wool Show in Wooster?