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WOOL GOES ON ITS WAY
-by- J. David Engle
Tau Beta Pi
Llarch 29, 1943
Shearing and summer range are tine things sheep
men are always thinking about. It may be that the shearers
will come late. He may not hare enough ^rood dogs to send
out with the sheep. The snow might have stayed on the ran~e
late that spring or there might have been heavy rains in-
stead of the usual drought. A stockman has no slack seasons
in his work.
America's sixty-eight million dollar wool industr
is not a olace for beginners. The smartest sheeuranchers
have failed due to continued stores, a closed range , or
just plain bad health.
Ranchers are always high in the nraise of their
dogs but never really admit that t^ej; are the one factor
that make possible their whole business. \ sheen raiser
always has good doe's.
f A ) Sheeuraising is practiced in most parts of
the United States; the technique varying as to the terrain
and the locality. The larger flocks -'.re found in the more
sparsely pooirated parts of the states si r ice there is more
unbroken grazing ground in these "narts. The dr TT cold o r the
West fovors producing the heavy fleece of the Shnnshire
and the P^ambouillet. The "erino x>roduces better miitto^ of
is bred in the East where the damp weatl er "'o^ld r'lin a
(B) The s v eer; are sheared and sent to t^e range
i oarly summer when the danger of extreme cold is over.
Even then some protection must be provided in late cold
snaps or losses will be very ?reat.
Shearing Is done by transient workers who work
their way up from Arizona or Texas, shearing as they Eto,
until they finish in Hon tana in late July and return to
Arizona to make a second shearing there. They work for
about three dollars a day plus meals. Each man averages a
hundred sheet) a day or better, depending on the grade of the
fleece, the burrs in it, and the 3ize of the sheen,
I'ost men have sheds and runways so that the sheet)
go in one side and out the other a^ter they are finished.
As soon as the fleece is re-ioved, it is tied up, with mner
twine so it need not be removed at t^e voolen mill, and
thrown into a burlnt* bag, ten feet long and three -^eet
wide, and nacked down. The bfiFr is held unright by a wooden
frarae. After the sheep are sheared they
are branded with the go "many brand and
their number. This brand must stay on the
Sheep while it is the range , but must
be soluble in the cleaners used at the
(G) At present no grading at
the farms in the T Jnited States. The tags,
or loose trimmings, and the blaok fleeces
are the only pieces keut sepatate. In
Australia the first grading at the farm
used at shearing.
has proved beneficial to all concerned.
(D) Until recently hand shears
were universal. They are wide-bladed scissors which are grin-
ned between the two blades and the center of their arc. The
two blades are connected by a semi-circular suring. Now the
shears which emuloy the reciprocating blade within a comb
are the most popular. They get their power from a long: flex-
ible shaft revolving in a flexible cable which may be con-
nected to a central or an individual source o^ uower. Power
shears a r © faster, cut smooth and close, and are less likely
to nick the hides of the sheep.
The lambs, which are about t^ree months old at
this time, are not sheared.
Hand Operated Sheep Shears.
fS) About ten days after the sheep have beer shear-
ed, they a re started out for summer range in groups of about
four hundred f inol tiding lambs ) tended by a herder and two
or three dogs. These sheep dogs seem to lore their work and do
most of the work on the ran°*e. It is their job to brinp- up
stagglers, keeo the lambs with the ewes, and to keer> the herd
headed in the ripht dirction. A trained dog needs little
prompting and probably knows the route better t^an the herd-
er. T !e is invaluble at night when his sense of smell serves
just as well as eyes.
As the lambs become more able to sta? wit 1 ' 1 t 1, e
flock, the flocks are combined until there may be two t v on-
sand in a flock by late August ♦ When this number of sheer) are
grazing, the herder may not be able to see the outer edges
of the herd; it is up to the dosra to keep the herd together
as well as keeo them away from sinkholes, cliffs, rivers,
and wild horses. The dogs work with the sheep quietly and pat-
iently and really seem to gain the confidence of the panicky
woolgatherers. Often a whirlwind will put the sheep that see
it into a complete stampede, yet a s?ood dog rarely censes a
sheep to move in more than a brisk walk.
(F) The open range is rapidly becoming a thing- of
the past, since the conservation program of the government
is imposing definate restrctions on the use of the open range.
The expense of owning or renting such large tracts of land as
are necessary for sheep grazing is tremendous; however the
work associatedwith summer grazing is reduced and the losses
on the range are brought to a minimum.
when on the range the sheepherder f s headauarters
is the sheep-wagon, a sturdy, two-horse covered wagon with a
stove, bed, and food supplies. 1 he wagons are moved and kent
stocked by a camp tender, who is in charge, of several wagons.
On the more crowded ranges, herds belonging to two
different people sometimes get mixed. Such a situation would
be boneless for the herders, but four good sheepdogs can
easily separate three thousand sheen into their correct flocks
in a few hours on the open ranee.
(3) Bv early September the flocks number about two
thousand and are started back to the ranch, a distance of
from fifty to seventy miles. Heavy snow start in mountains
soon after that and if the sheep are not out of the mountains
by the middle of September, they ate likely to be trapped .
It will be plenty cold on the home range and the sheen will
grow a fleece heavy enough for any animal by spring.
1. Hill , John A. , Range Sheep and Vool in Seventeen Yes tern
States , Hew York, John Wiley and Jon. I )3 I, p323.
2. Hill, John A., Range Sheep . . . . . t)324-5
3. Smith, H. H. , Run 'Sheep Hog Run . Readers Digest,
33:57-60, May, 1941.
4. Sheep. Encyclopedia Brittaniea, Brittanioa Co.
New York, t e 1937 ) p4"3-7
5. Climate and Man. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D. C, 1941. p4G0-4?4.