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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU offers sheep-shearing training Dec. 14-16

Sheep shearing is becoming a lost art in New Mexico as skilled shearers are retiring and not being replaced by the younger generation. Especially in these tough economic times, the chance to receive training in sheep shearing might appeal to young people wishing to supplement their income with the seasonal work.

NMSU Extension sheep specialist Pat Melendrez demonstrates how to sharpen shearing blades during a shearing school. NMSU will host its annual sheep-shearing school Dec. 14-16 at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences sheep barn. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

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

Pat Melendrez, NMSU Extension agricultural specialist and expert shearer, said there is a need for more sheep shearers. Especially challenging is finding people to shear the smaller flocks, between 25 and 75 head.

"A good shearer can really stay busy," Melendrez 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," said Melendrez, who has been shearing for 35 years. "You are always learning, and shearing school is a good place to get hands-on experience and tune up on someone else's sheep."

NMSU's Extension Animal Science and Natural Resources Department will host its annual shearing school from 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, to noon Thursday, Dec. 16, at the school's sheep barn on the NMSU Las Cruces campus. The cost is $30 per person.

Melendrez will share the tricks of the trade, from basic equipment, 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 management of the shearing for the safety of the sheep and the shearer," said Melendrez. "There are a lot of things to take into consideration when buying the equipment, which will have an impact on the shearing."

The registration deadline is Dec. 8. To register or for more information, call 575-646-3326.