Becoming a sheep shearer can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice if you are passionate about sheep. If you’re unsure where to start, this comprehensive guide on becoming a sheep shearer is for you!
How Do You Become A Professional Sheep Shearer?
You can become a sheep shearer without formal qualifications. Start by enlisting as a shearing shed hand and get informal training on the job.
However, earning qualifications in shearing, such as Certificate II and III, can improve your entry into this occupation.
Below, we cover in more detail how to become a certified sheep shearer.
Learn how to turn your passion for these affectionate, curious, and playful animals into a lucrative career.
Who Is A Sheep Shearer?
Sheep, unlike most domestic animals, don’t shed their fleece naturally. Shearing is the process of trimming wool off of the sheep.
Most sheep need shearing at least once a year to remove their heavy coats.
Sheep shearing is a painstaking task that requires a lot of skill and expertise to execute safely.
Most sheep farmers don’t possess the skills needed to shear their sheep. And that’s where sheep shearers come in.
A sheep shearer is an individual who gets paid to provide this service. Sheep shearers may use handheld blades — like sheep shears or clippers — or a sheep shearing machine to remove wool from sheep in one piece.
The Job Duties Of A Sheep Shearer
Before we get into how to become a sheep shearer, let’s look at the day-to-day activities of a sheep shearer so that you know what to expect.
As a sheep shearer, here are some of the tasks you may be required to perform:
- Shear and remove the fleece from sheep
- Catch and position animals for shearing
- Select and prepare shearing equipment
- Repair, maintain, and service equipment
- Return shorn animals to pens for checking and counting
- Identify contaminated wool fiber
- Treat skin cuts on shorn animals
How To Become A Sheep Shearer
Sheep shearing is a painstaking task. It requires a careful process and much attention to trim a sheep’s fleece perfectly without harming the animal.
Skills and Personal Requirements
You need certain aptitudes to excel at sheep shearing like any other job. Here are the skills you require to become a sheep shearer:
- Teamwork. You must be able to work as part of a team. Sheep shearing is a team activity. Usually, it takes a group of shearing shed hands to catch sheep from a catching pen and hold them down for shearing.
- Physical Strength. Sheep shearing is a physically demanding job. To become a sheep shearer, you must have the physical stamina to catch, hold, lift, and move sheep into various positions during shearing.
- Dexterity. Shearing sheep is an activity that primarily involves the use of hands. You must be good with your hands to be a good sheep shearer. You must be able to work fast and consistently with your hands for extended periods.
- Hand-Eye Coordination. You also need good hand-eye coordination to become a sheep shearer. Individuals with poor hand-eye coordination will have a tough time harvesting wool from sheep and may even injure the sheep.
- Concentration. Concentration is one of the most underrated skills in most careers. When it comes to sheep shearing, poor concentration can be costly. Sheep shearers must maintain concentration when using sharp tools like clippers and shears.
- Confidence. You need to be confident around animals to become a sheep shearer. If you exude timidity when handling sheep during shearing, the animals will give you a tough time.
In addition, there are other personal requirements to become a sheep shearer. For instance, you must be willing to work in remote areas where sheep farming usually occurs. If you prefer city life, you might want to choose another career.
Training And Education
You don’t need formal training or education to work as a sheep shearer. Shearing professionals work as a team. You can start by becoming a shearing shed hand to get on-the-job training.
Shearing shed hands assist shearers by performing a wide range of routine tasks in the shearing shed.
Typically, shearing shed hands will help with handling sheep during shearing, picking up the fleece, and cleaning wool sheds.
You’ll be able to learn the basic techniques of shearing as a shearing shed hand. Typically, the shearer will be demonstrating how to shear and roll the fleece on the field.
They’ll also provide tips on how to avoid injuring yourself or the sheep.
Shearing Certifications and Qualifications
As you learn on the job, you’ll eventually gain the necessary skills to become a sheep shearer. You don’t need further training to work as a sheep shearer.
However, earning a professional certification in shearing will enhance your capabilities and improve your employment prospects.
Certifications offered for shearing vary depending on the jurisdiction. In the US, for instance, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) handles formal training and certification in sheep shearing.
The ASI offers several sheep shearing certifications with a high priority on sheep care and quality assurance. The most common ones are:
- Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA)
- American Wool Assurance (AWA)
- Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (SSQA)
Are you interested in becoming a certified sheep shearer in the US? Below, we look at ASI’s sheep shearing certifications in more detail.
Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA)
Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) is one of the most important certifications you need to earn as a young person looking to become a sheep shearer.
This multi-species quality assurance program can improve your employment prospects significantly.
The annual education and certification program is designed for youths aged 8 to 21. It focuses on three key areas:
- Food Safety
- Animal Well-Being
- Character Development
YQCA gives you an opportunity to learn practical skills on the job while also getting formal training from specialists and national livestock program managers. Upon completing the program, you get to earn a nationally recognised qualification.
Typically, YQCA is available as an instructor-led training and as a test out certification.
However, it’s also offered as an online program for youths across the United States. Learn more about this program here.
Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (SSQA)
Improve your entry into the sheep shearing industry by earning the Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (SSQA).
The ASI began this program in the early 1990s to increase consumer confidence in sheep products sourced in the United States.
This program is designed to help sheep shearers ensure the production of safe and high-quality wool using research and education.
Applicants are required to complete training to become a member of SSQA.
American Wool Assurance (AWA)
You can advance your knowledge even further by earning the American Wool Assurance (AWA) certification.
The AWA certification shows that you are conversant with all process control procedures that help to generate safe, high-quality wool.
The training covers year-round animal care related to sheep production with more focus on animal welfare related to wool production. The AWA program provides three levels of certification.
To earn the AWA certification, an applicant must complete the Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (SSQA) course above.
You get a chance to become a Level I certified sheep shearer by completing the SSQA course.
Job Outlook for Sheep Shearers
After completing your training and earning certifications to become a professional shearer, the next step is to look for a job.
With the size of the national sheep flock increasing every year, there’s a positive job outlook for sheep shearers in the US.
Typically, sheep shearers are employed by shearing contractors. A shearing contractor is more likely to hire you if you have shearing qualifications. You may also choose to become self-employed.
But if you are just getting started, we recommend working for a shearing contractor for a while to gain experience and make your own name in the sheep shearing industry.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Frequently asked questions by people who have set their sights on sheep shearing as a career include:
What qualifications do I need to become a sheep shearer?
You don’t need any formal qualifications to work as a sheep shearer. However, the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA), Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (SSQA), or American Wool Assurance (AWA) certification can improve your employment prospects.
How much does a sheep shearer make?
The average salary for a Sheep Shearer in the United States is $15 an hour or $31,644 a year. However, a huge pay disparity exists between experienced and novice professional shearers. Seasoned professionals can easily pocket up to $100,000 a year.
Is it hard to get a job as a sheep shearer in the United States?
There’s a huge shortage of sheep shearers in many parts of the country. If you have the shearing qualifications and a few years of experience under your belt, you shouldn’t have any problems securing employment.
How long does it take to earn shearing qualifications?
It depends on the qualification. The SSQA and AWA certification take 12 months to complete each. Depending on the circumstances, the YQCA program may take 6–9 months to finish.
What are the working conditions for a sheep shearer?
Sheep shearing takes place in noisy shearing sheds. A typical workday is 8-9 hours, and you should be willing to work on weekends. Shearers travel a lot, often staying in shearing quarters on the sheep farms.
It may be physically demanding, but sheep shearing as a profession has many upsides. Now that you know how to become a sheep shearer, you can take action to turn your passion for sheep into a career. Chances are you won’t regret it!
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