The English, Flemish and Americans may have pioneered the global wool industry but it is the Irish who hold the title for the fastest time to shear a fully grown sheep! More specifically, The Guinness World Record currently held by Ivan Scott from Castlepollard in County Westmeath.
On the 4th of April 2016, Mr. Scott sheared the sheep, in front of an audience of 60, in a cool 37.57 seconds!
An experience shearer can however, shear up to 200 sheep in a day, usually in one minute flat! It may look easy but shearing is a specialized skill and its tough going. You need to have enough skill to avoid cutting yourself or the sheep. It can be stressful for the sheep if it is not sheared quickly and efficiently. The fleece can also be damaged by an untrained shearer.
Before shearing, the sheep are usually penned and separated into groups e.g. lambs, yearlings, rams and ewes. When they are sheared in groups it is easier to keep the wool fleeces and shearing area clean. Sheep are always sheared on a dry, clean surface like wood, canvas, concrete or even on a wool carpet! Sheep can never be sheared on a full stomach or if they are wet, as they would be too uncomfortable during shearing.
In the future there may be no need for the sheep to endure the shearing process. Scientists in Australia are using a special hormone which they inject into the sheep. They then wrap the sheep in a tight hairnet and 3 weeks later peel the fleece off! This process is called Bioclip and is has been used since 1994. The Australians have even developed a robot for shearing sheep! Between 1985 and 1993 one robot chipped 400 sheep……..not quite as fast as our Mr. Scott!