Shearing Goats

Cashmere is an important farm product and more profit can be realized from well shorn fleece. Therefore, we encourage you to learn the proper techniques for shearing. While shearing is done primarily to harvest a valuable crop, the work must be done without injury to the goat.

One who is learning to shear should always keep in mind some things that are fundamental to good workmanship. One is holding the goat in a position to insure that the skin is stretched tight in the area to be shorn. Another is to make each stroke as long as possible, keeping the ends of the teeth of the comb on the skin throughout the stroke.

In this article, the strokes are described and numbered consecutively to show the order in which to make them. A series of illustrations is under construction. The condition of the goat and the condition of the fleece will have a lot to do with the number of strokes required. However, you should try to shear each position with the smallest number of strokes possible. Try to keep the goat’s body in position.

Note that the right side of the goat is shorn with the clippers in the right hand, with the left hand being used mainly to stretch the goat around your left leg to keep the skin tight. The opposite side is done with the clippers in the left hand with legs and the right hand helping to keep the goat in position.With these points in mind, you should be able to learn proper shearing with a lot of practice.

RESTRAINING THE GOAT

Unlike sheep or Angora goats, cashmere goats are shorn standing up, using the Australian “go-down” method. A raised shearing stand, similar to a milking stand, or a head restraint placed firmly on the floor can be used. Raised platforms tend to conserve the back of the shearer, making the entire operation more comfortable. To shear the goat’s right side, hold the clippers in the right hand and stand to the goat’s left. Grasp the tail with the left hand and stretch the goat back away from the headstall and bend it around your left leg. It the goat struggles, lift the hindquarters off the table or floor.

Blow Number One – The first shearing stroke or “blow” begins at the hock of the right leg. Never shear down the leg as permanent tendon damage may occur. Enter the fleece at the hock and follow the curve of the thigh up to the base of the tail. At the tail, change direction and change the grip on the shears. Holding shears can be compared to the grip on a tennis racket. The right side requires a “forehand grip” or positioning the clippers so they tilt slightly to the right, matching the curvature of the goat’s body. On the left side, a “backhand grip” is necessary to accommodate the opposite curvature.

Using the forehand grip, continue Blow #1 up the right side of the spine, keeping the cutter blades against the skin. The fiber should come off in a continuous sheet. Allow the fiber to fall to the side and continue all the way up behind the ears if you can reach that far comfortably. If not, wait until the side has been shorn and shift your position to straddle the goat. Shearing the neck should be easy from this position. Disengage the clippers from the fleece and prepare for Blow #2. Do not allow your rouster to retrieve any shorn fiber until you have completed one side. Try to keep the fiber together in a continuous sheet. Good fleeces will naturally hang together and are much easier to assess at a later date if they are not torn up. Wait until the entire side is shorn and have the rouster roll it up and put it in the bag. Neck hair may be gathered separately.

Blow Number Two – The second blow follows the path of the first, only 4 inches lower, the breadth of the shearing comb. Again, allow the fleece to remain in a sheet if it will. An experienced “rouster” or helper can be of great help in keeping shorn fleece out of the way of the shearer. Later, on the classing table, a complete fleece is easier to class. Some fleeces with a lot of guard hair will not hang together and must be picked up or “rousted” by the handful.

Blow Number Three – At this time, the majority of the flank has been shorn and the blow may eventually intersect with the arm. Take care to not catch the folds of skin at the armpit and continue up the neck as far as possible. Do not stretch too far as you will tend to make second cuts.

Blow Number Four – This blow may be used to shear the hair along the leading edge of the thigh on large animals or may not even be necessary on smaller ones. Again, be careful to not cut the skin at the juncture of the belly. As the blow continues up the belly, if the armpit is encountered, turn the clippers sharply downward and shear the belly itself to the midline. Lift the clippers at this point and continue the blow up the forearm and continue up the side of the neck if you can comfortably reach that far.

Blow Number Five – This is a short blow designed to remove remaining fiber from the side of goat and from the belly. Sometimes this is a double stroke if the body is very long. Be cautious to not encounter the prepuce on a buck or a full udder on a doe. Remember, some goats may not have any fiber on their bellies and this would then be a waste of time.

Blow Number Six – This is the final cleaning up blow to remove the fleece on the front of the neck and it again can also be a double blow, depending upon the size of the animal being shorn. If the neck skin is extremely loose, be careful to not cut the goat and take care to not clip any waddles. Depending upon the stature of the shearer as compared to the size of the goat, the goat may need to be placed between the shearers’ legs so that access is possible to the front of the neck.

Now it is time to shear the other side of the goat. Switch the clippers to the opposite hand and position the goat around the right leg to stretch the skin. The sequence and pattern of blows is identical for the left side, although some practice may be necessary for right handed shearers. This is the best way to do it, so hang in there. After the goat is shorn, vaccinations or delousing can be done. Do not trim feet at this time unless it is absolutely necessary for the health of the goat. Foot trimmings are an easy way to increase your fleece weight, but they play havoc with dehairing machines.Clean the shearing parlor after each goat. It is easiest to use an air compressor with a trigger attachment to blow the hair into a pile in the corner. Always shear light colored goats first and darker ones last. Have the rouster gather each fleece and place it in a plastic bucket or dish. Label each fleece with the tag number of the goat. An efficient shearing team will have one rouster for each shearer and one classer for each two shearers.

A floor manager becomes necessary if vaccinations, worming medications or delousing is to be done, and may be a good idea if there is any question about tag numbers. An unidentified fleece is a waste of time if you intend to breed better goats. Try to have a list of possible tag numbers ready before shearing so that goat numbers can be checked off an existing list rather than hand copied. Dyslexia is a common problem… more common than you’d think on a busy shearing floor.

GENERAL GOAT SHEARING TIPS

Avoid vegetable matter contamination like burs and straw before and while you shear.
Keep the shearing floor swept clean at all times.
Do not shear a goat when the hair is wet.
Do not shear a dusty goat as it will dull the clippers. Blow them clean first with the compressed air.
Minimize second cuts on the fleece.
Keep the fleece together as much as possible. Do not allow the rouster to pick up any fiber until the entire side is completed. Try to keep the sheet of shorn fiber in tact as much as possible. Good goats will have fiber that hangs together as you shear.
Tightly pack the fleece in new, clean bags.
Store the bags in a clean, dry place.
Provide shelter for the animals after shearing.
Use a 17 or 20-tooth mohair shearing comb when you shear.
For best results, reduce your Clipmaster Clipper speed to about 2200 CPM.
Use only new lubricating oil (10W40) on your clipper. Used oils can stain the fleece.
Keep the cutters and combs sharp to produce the fastest and cleanest cut.
Copyright 1994 Capricorn Press. Not to be reproduced without express written consent of Capricorn Press. Contact Info@CapCas.com for more information.

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