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NMSU to host sheep shearing school

New Mexico

Got a small flock of sheep and can't find anyone to shear the wool? How about learning to shear them yourself?

New Mexico State University will hold its annual sheep shearing school Dec. 13 to 15 in Las Cruces.

"Sheep shearing is becoming a lost art in New Mexico as skilled shearers retire and younger people are not replacing them," said Pat Melendrez, NMSU Extension agricultural specialist and expert sheep shearer. "It's hard to find someone to shear the smaller flocks, between 25 and 75 head, which is the majority of New Mexico flocks. Many herdsmen with smaller flocks are learning to do their own shearing."

Wool is still a solid business in New Mexico. "The work is there. A good shearer can really stay busy," said Melendrez.

In 2009, wool was sheared from 100,000 sheep and lambs, producing 730,000 pounds, according to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture's 2009 agriculture statistics book. The value of wool ranges in price depending on the quality of the fleece. In 2009, at an average of $1 per pound, wool generated $730,000 in cash receipts for New Mexico.

There is only one way to learn shearing skills: 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," he said. "You are always learning. Shearing school is a good place to get hands-on experience, and tune up on someone else's sheep."

NMSU's Department of Extension Animal Sciences and Natural Resources will host its annual shearing school from 1 p.m. on Dec. 13, to noon Dec. 15, at the school's sheep barn on campus. The cost is $30 per person.

Melendrez will share the tricks of the trade from basic equipment needs, 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, who has been shearing sheep for 35 years. "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. 5. To register, or for more information, call 575-646-3326.

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