Unlike other domestic animals, sheep don’t have a continuous growing and shedding cycle. That’s because sheep have wool, not fur. And like hair, wool keeps growing. For that reason, most sheep breeds raised in Australia need shearing. So, what’s the best time to shear sheep in Australia?
Best Time To Shear Sheep In Australia?
The best time to shear sheep in Australia is early spring, August, September, and October. However, sheep shearing starts as early as May or June in warmer Australian regions such as parts of Queensland.
Shearing at this time of the year relieves the sheep of the heavy insulation, keeping them cool and comfortable in the summer. It also provides enough time to grow long, thick fleece for the winter months.
Another reason for the timing of the shearing season in Australia is the quality of the wool. The reasoning is that sheep wool gets thinner in the summer and thickens in late spring.
Therefore, shearing in early spring produces strong, high-quality wool that is thick in the middle but thin in the end.
Getting The Timing Right
As explained above, spring is the most common season for shearing sheep in Australia, but it’s not always that simple. Sheep farmers need to get the timing right for better quality fibres and a higher price for their wool.
Here are the factors to consider to ensure you get the timing right for shearing your sheep.
Australia is a big country with varying climates or weather patterns. The shearing season in Australia varies depending on location. You may want to start shearing as early as May or June if you are in Queensland and other warmer parts of the country.
You may have to wait a little later to start shearing if you are in the country’s southern, usually cooler regions. Wondering what is shearing season in Australia? Sheep shearing usually happens in October and November in colder states, including some parts of Victoria and New South Wales.
Sheep need shelter of some sort. In most cases, sufficient tree coverage or a windbreak should suffice. You can construct a simple run-in shed or shade structure if you raise your sheep in an open field without many trees.
You should also factor in the type of housing facilities you have for your sheep when determining the best time for shearing.
You don’t want to leave your sheep running around an open field without a long, thick coat during winter.
Sheep shearing can have a significant impact on the productivity of your flock. Shearing your sheep before anticipated lambing, for instance, can lead to healthier and more productive lambs. Here are other benefits of shearing sheep before lambing:
- It creates a more hygienic environment for newborn lambs
- It keeps the ewes warmer and drier
- Increases the ewes’ food intake, helping meet the growing nutrient demands during the lambing period
- Encourages ewes to seek shelter, reducing the chances of lambs being born outside — where they are more likely to become hypothermic.
Shearing before lambing is also a good management practice for sheep farmers. It increases the quality of wool produced by ewes considerably. The stress of lambing can damage the wool fibre, reducing wool quality.
The staple length is the average length of individual fibres that comprise the wool yarn. The average staple length is about three inches. If it falls below three inches, uses are limited, and the price is heavily discounted.
The period between shearing affects staple length. Sheep farmers must allow sufficient time to grow the staple to an optimal length. In other words, don’t shear your sheep too frequently to avoid wool discounts.
READ ALSO: How To Tell Wool Quality: 7 Effective Ways
Why Do Sheep Need Shearing?
Sheep grow their fleece year-round and don’t shed, making shearing necessary. Shearing improves the welfare of animals in numerous ways. For starters, shearing helps avoid heat stress in the hot summer months.
Shearing sheep also mitigates the risk of parasite infestation. Due to their thick coats, sheep are particularly vulnerable to flystrike. Removing the thick fleece removes the potential breeding ground for parasites, significantly reducing the disease risk.
How Frequently Do Sheep Need Shearing?
Sheep grow wool all year round. Most types of sheep only need to be sheared once a year. However, certain breeds may need shearing twice a year.
For instance, carpet wool sheep — known for having long, coarse wool — can be sheared two times or more yearly.
Do All Sheep Breeds Need Shearing?
Certain breeds don’t need to be sheared at all. For instance, if you have shedding sheep, you never have to worry about shearing them as they can shed their wool. Keep in mind that shedding sheep are specifically bred for this trait.
Most types of sheep will require shearing now and then. The best time to shear sheep in Australia is early spring. However, you need to consider the weather patterns in your area, shelter, lambing, and other factors to get the timing right.