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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU sheep-shearing school teaches skills of the trade

LAS CRUCES - Looking for an opportunity for supplementary income? Shearing sheep may be the answer.



NMSU Extension sheep specialist demonstrates how to sharpen shearing blades during a shearing school. NMSU's Extension Animal Science and Natural Resources Department will host its annual sheep shearing school Dec. 14-16 at the school's sheep barn. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

With 126,000 sheep shorn every year, there's work out there for an industrious fellow. Annually, 900,000 pounds of wool is produced in New Mexico, bringing in $1.25 million in sales.

"There's a need to have people learn how to shear sheep," said Clay Mathis, New Mexico State University professor and livestock specialist. "It's hard to find someone to shear the smaller flocks, between 25 and 75 head, which is the majority of New Mexico flocks. There's opportunity out there for a good shearer."

You can learn essential skills of the trade at NMSU's annual sheep-shearing school from noon Monday, Dec. 14, to noon Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the school's sheep barn. The school is hosted by the Extension Animal Science and Natural Resources Department. The registration deadline is Dec. 1, and the cost is $20 per person.

NMSU Extension sheep specialist and expert shearer Pat Melendrez knows the opportunities that await a younger man then he. "The work is there. A good shearer can really stay busy," he said.

There is only one way to learn the trade: have an expert like Melendrez show you and then practice, practice, practice.

"It takes about 10 years to learn all the various aspects of shearing," Melendrez said. "You are always learning, and shearing school is a good place to get hands-on experience and tune up on someone else's sheep."

Melendrez will share the tricks of the trade, from which basic equipment is needed, including the types of combs and blades needed for the various shearing conditions, to how to maintain the equipment, to basic sheep-handling skills.

"They will learn shearing management for the safety of the sheep and the shearer," said Melendrez, who has been shearing sheep for 34 years. "And when buying the equipment, there are a lot of things to take into consideration that will have an impact on the shearing."

To register or for more information, call (575) 646-3326.