Across America, a situation has been developing and it is becoming urgent: the lack of a sheep shearer. I hear from sheep raising friends fairly frequently about how difficult it is to find a shearer. Not even to find a “good shearer,” but any sheep shearer at all.
A quick look at this sheep shearer directory shows us that overall, the industry is being underserved. In California, for example, there are only 19 shearers listed. That’s a big state to be served by 19 people, especially since California is the top producer of wool in the United States.
If you are a sheep producer yourself, you are probably already aware of the shortage. Your skills as a shearer could be the ticket to an additional income stream to help you profit from your small farm. A small investment and weeklong class later, you can be on your way to a professional shearing operation.
Sheep Shearer: Initial Investment Cost
According to John Harper of the UC Cooperative Extension, buying “all brand new equipment” will cost about $3,000. Sheep shearing is a physically demanding job. Part of the investment is in yourself and your physical stamina.
If you are able to find a local mentor, learning that way will cost little to nothing, but if not, UC Davis offers an annual sheep shearing class that can be be offset with grant money, according to the USDA. Here’s a short video about it:
Because being a sheep shearer is a service business, it requires no land.
Turnaround Time to Become a Sheep Shearer
If you learn sheep shearing by taking the UC Davis class, you can conceivably get started as soon as you have equipment. This may be a time when you offer your services at a steep discount or even free to build up experience and skill, but you can earn income almost immediately.
Daily Time Requirements
Daily time requirements as a sheep shearer depend entirely on how much time you want to spend. All across the country you will likely find as much work as you want to do. Shearing is a seasonal job though, so you will see your work surge in the spring and fade away until the next year. For a farmer, working out the time to offer this service in spring will be a juggling act, but the profit potential might be enough to make it worthwhile.
Profit Potential as a Sheep Shearer
According to John Harper quoted above, “You’ll never be unemployed and you’ll never be poor.” He states that a good shearer can easily see an hourly rate of $50-$100 or more per hour. With a relatively small investment in equipment and education, this business idea can be profitable within the first year.
Your market will primarily be small farmers within a reasonable driving distance of your home location. How far is up to you – you can offset the travel costs by charging milage and per-farm minimums. Around here, several people often pool together and bring their animals to one location to make the most of the cost.
You can market your services on Craigslist, Facebook, the local paper, your own website and–most importantly–word of mouth. A good sheep shearer will quickly have as much work as they want. Get the word out by contacting local sheep breeders directly. They’ll be happy to hear from you.
If you love working with animals and are looking for a potential career with low startup costs and long term potential, becoming a sheep shearer may be your next small farm income idea.