There are half a million sheep in Switzerland. The Animal Welfare Act stipulates that they must be sheared at least once a year for hygienic reasons. Many farmers even let the professional shearers shear the wool of their animals twice – in spring and autumn. Some of the shearers learn their trade in New Zealand, where around 4.5 million people live together with 30 million sheep. Shearing has to be fast here: A New Zealander needs 44 moves for one animal. There are also regular sheep shearing competitions on the island, and there is even a world championship.
The correct order
With special non-slip shoes and skintight clothes, the shearer frees a sheep from its wool within 2-3 minutes. The world record is 44 seconds. The position and the order of the body parts can vary. One possibility is to turn the sheep on its back so that the four legs protrude into the air. From behind the belly is shorn first, later the hind legs, the chest, the neck and the chin, the shoulders, the back and finally the other side. During clipping it is important to make long, strong strokes, not to have to cut a spot a second time and to keep the skin tight with the other hand. Each shearing operation produces about 1.5 to 2 kg of wool per sheep.
A privilege of wealthy citizens was wool clothing until the 19th century. Only since sheep’s wool became available in sufficient quantities thanks to imports from Australia and New Zealand can the rest of the population afford the warming material. After shearing, the wool is washed abroad and sorted according to colour and quality. It is twisted into threads, processed into felt or used as natural thermal insulation.
Sponsorship for a lamb
The wool from Meinrad Fässler‘s sheep is also shipped abroad as insulation material. Twice a year he has his 100 ewes sheared by specialists: In spring, when it gets warmer, and in autumn, when they come from the alp. The Feusisberger farmer is glad that he can now sell the wool again, because there were times when he even had to pay for the disposal of the wool. Today he receives between 30 and 90 centimes per kilo – depending on the quality. Anyone who would like to get to know his sporty sheep, is interested in sponsoring a lamb or would like to spend a day on a farm is very welcome at Meinrad Fässler by appointment. Click here to see his profile.