The 2021 Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson featured a variety of demonstrations, including how to shear sheep.
Joe Huber and his son, Josh, of Huber’s Sheep Shearing in Wisconsin Dells demonstrated the art of shearing to guests both in and unfamiliar with the sheep and wool industry. Ahead of the demonstration, Joe talks with the Mid-West Farm Report about his family’s shearing business and the wool industry.
Huber, who also teaches sheep shearing through the UW System, explains that while shearing may look rough, it doesn’t hurt the sheep. While shearing, the sheep is kept off of it’s feet so that it is sitting or lying down comfortably. The shearer moves the sheep’s head and legs around during the haircut to make sure each stroke of the razor is one clean sweep, making sure the process is safe and efficient for both the sheep and the shearer.
The raw wool goes to the processor as it looks coming off of the sheep. Huber explains that in Wisconsin, the humidity adds to the yellow coloring of the wool, versus the snow white coats coming off sheep out west, for example.
The family business shears about up to 12,000 sheep every year throughout Wisconsin and in Iowa with flocks ranging from one pet to 500-head. Huber prefer shearing in the winter before lambing season. It’s better to sheer sheep in the cold of winter rather than the cold and wet of spring, he says. It also keeps the barn cleaner for the sheep during lambing and a short wool coat makes it easier for the lamb to find the udder.
He says less people in the state are producing sheep for wool because prices have fallen. Huber attributes lower prices to decreasing demand for wool in clothing. On the other hand, he says market lambs are up, so the state’s meat sheep industry is doing well.