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A Day in the Life of an Adirondack Sheep Shearer

MALONE Because sheep do not shed their wool they should be shorn once every year. Roger Hastings, from Dickinson Center near, Malone spends much of his time traveling throughout fourteen counties in the Adirondack region getting that job done. Although the bulk of his shearing is done during the summer, he does shear sheep every month of the year, That comes to just about 1,400 sheep annually.

Hastings, who owns 140 head of sheep, began shearing 8 years ago. Sandy Van Allman, the woman who sheared his sheep, was cutting back and urged him to give it a try. After one lesson from Sandy he was well on his way, and found that he enjoyed the job.

I like learning more about sheep, and I meet a lot of nice people, he said.

Monday, Aug. 13, was a busy day for Hastings. By 9 a.m. he was shearing a large flock of sheep in Peasleville. He progressed to several more farms in West Peru, making his last stop at Bill Umbreit's farm, where he sheared the last 9 sheep of the day, finishing up shortly before 8 p.m. Then he was off toward home to get ready to work his regular job, working with the mentally handicapped.

Shearing sheep is hard physical labor, and Hastings does back exercises daily to keep him in shape for the task.

Its not as hard as you might think, he said. It is all in handling the sheep properly. I actually find the driving I have to do more tiring than the shearing.

The job also has its perils. The shears are extremely sharp, and though ewes are usually docile, rams can be aggressive. A full grown ram can weigh from 175 to 350 pounds. depending on breed. Fortunately, ewes vastly outnumber the rams, and many small flocks consist only of ewes. Also, most sheep are surprisingly cooperative during the shearing process.Theyre flipped over onto their rumps and rolled onto their sides as their wool is shorn off with the whizzing electric shears.

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