'Sheep is Life' presenter offers 5 easy steps to shearing

By Larissa L. Jimmy
Navajo Times

CHINLE, June 27, 2013

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E ven though shearing can be a strenuous job, it's still a practice that anybody can do.

Johnny Tom offered an easier way to shear a sheep without having to use a rope and demonstrated five steps to making the process of shearing simple during the 17th annual Sheep is Life Celebration in Tsaile, Ariz.

"There is a trick to it … you take its legs from under it and put it on its rump," Tom said.

This immobilizes the sheep while shearing, trimming the hooves, and while giving the domestic animal a shot of medication.

The process starts off with placing a sheep on its rump.

Step two, begins with shearing from the chin, around the eyes, and down to the neck. One would work down toward the left side of the leg and continue down the front leg on to the back leg.

Step three is moving the sheep onto its left side and begin shearing the belly. With your feet to a hind corner and the other placed in the front (your legs and feet keep the sheep from moving, which is key).

Step four is to reposition the sheep and place the legs between the sheep's legs, front and back and under the tail (your left foot at this time should be under the right shoulder of the sheep as this will then give you room).

Step five is to lift the head and begin shearing on the opposite side.

By following these steps, Tom says that the process should take you 5 to 10 minutes and if you are using an electronic shear it should take you about 3 to 5 minutes.

Shearing typically takes place in the spring. The purpose of shearing is to make it easier for the lamb to drink milk, keeps the animal cooler during the harsh summers, and makes vaccination quicker.

Tom said it is important to continue the tradition of shearing sheep, despite the hard work.

He added that the demand for wool is not as high as it once was because people are turning to polyester and cotton clothing among other reasons.

However, shearing was part of his upbringing and said it means a lot to him.

Tom has sold sheep in different parts of the United States and has even had sheep that have gone to Canada and Mexico.

Tom travels throughout the reservation giving lectures and demonstration of sheep shearing at different schools, chapter houses and events celebrating sheep.

"I hope that our young people have enough interest because we need them. Somebody has to make an effort to conserve the livelihood because it benefits everybody," he said. "Somebody has to carry it on and I hope our young people will do that."

Jeaine Salt, who came down to the Sheep is Life Demonstration on Saturday from Kayenta, Ariz., said that Tom's demonstration was informative and that, although she has already sheared her sheep, she will try his five simple steps next season.

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