Wool-less Sheep

According to a story I read this morning, the cost of shearing sheep is going up while the price of wool is going down. Therefore, more and more sheep farmers are going to woolless sheep in order to avoid the expensive shear every year.

I hazard three conclusions from this article:

  • Sheep are being grown more for meat than for wool, nowadays?
  • Shearing is a requirement every year for wooly sheep?
  • There’s a breed of sheep without wool? Weird.

If #2 is true, how did sheep ever survive in the wild? Why can’t the farmers just not shear their sheep every year? This begs for further investigation.

As a last note, I don’t believe that I would have picked the word “woolless” if given the option. It’s a mouthful. I would have gone with “woolfree” because, though it might sound funny, it’s catchy.

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3 Responses to Wool-less Sheep

  1. Annie says:

    I couldn’t find any definitive answers, but I suspect that wild sheep (and ancient sheep) don’t have as much or as thick wool as today’s modern sheep. I would also suspect that sheep would molt in a way similar to bison and would find trees and shrubs to rub against to pull off clumps of coat as summer approached.

  2. Jeff says:

    I remember seeing a “Beyond Tomorrow” episode where they used a robotic arm to shear sheep. The sheep were directed down an alley that got progressively smaller, when they reached the end they were basically forced over a saw horse and strapped on. Then a lead was attached at their tail and tongue by hand and the robot arm moved down and proceeded to shear the sheep using the capacitance of the sheep’s skin to direct the arm.

    Sounds cruel eh? Well if you’ve ever seen what a sheep shearer does by hand it’s actually A LOT less stressful. Of course I’m not sure it’s being used in production, but it was an interesting idea. Apparently they got a lot more usable wool out of a sheep and it was just as fast as doing it by hand.

  3. Bill says:

    This is tangential, but I remember that one of the recent IgNobel awards for Physics was for a paper studying the forces involved with dragging sheep over various surfaces.

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