Impact Reports

Washington State Shearing School

2015

Partners

An increase in sheep profitability, the number of small farms, and the use of sheep for natural resource management has caused the number of sheep to increase nationally to more than 5.28 million head. Almost 10 percent of sheep raised in the United States, 507,000, are raised in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho because of the unique and diverse growing regions of the Pacific Northwest. Knowledgeable producers and a skilled workforce are essential for producer and industry sustainability, which requires outreach programs that support education, recruiting, training, and the retention of quality people.

An increase in sheep profitability, the number of small farms, and the use of sheep for natural resource management has caused the number of sheep to rise nationally to more than 5.28 million head. Almost 10 percent of sheep raised in the United States, 507,000, are raised in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho because of the unique and diverse growing regions of the Pacific Northwest. Knowledgeable producers and a skilled workforce are essential for producer and industry sustainability, which requires outreach programs that support education, recruiting, training, and the retention of quality people.

Wool’s popularity in the textile industry is growing because of the increased cost of synthetic fibers and the natural renewable properties of wool. People also want assurances that wool is ethically produced, harvested, and processed. Skilled and knowledgeable shearers are an integral part of harvesting wool in a manner that ensures the highest quality wool clip possible, proper animal handling, and biosecurity to prevent disease transmission.

Worldwide the sheep industry is facing a critical shearer shortage for flocks of all sizes. The serious shortage impacts timely harvest, sustainability of producers, and the well-being of the animals. It is not uncommon for small flocks to go unshorn or sell out because of the shortage. This situation compromises both the animals’ well-being and long-term sustainability of the sheep industry. Producers of other fiber producing animals (alpacas, goats, and llamas) also have expressed a need for qualified shearers.

The Washington State Shearing School (WSSS) was created in 1977 to address the need for skilled sheep shearers, a need that is just as large today as it was almost 40 years ago. A five-day beginner’s school and a one-day advanced school are held annually in April. The WSSS provides classroom and extensive hands-on training to ensure students develop skills and knowledge necessary to achieve an efficient, quality wool harvest and understand proper animal care.

To achieve a high-quality wool clip from farm to market place, producers, wool consultants, and wool pool coordinators are incorporated in the educational process. Shearing students also receive information on various sheep production-related issues and an extensive resource manual to provide sheep producers with additional information. » More …