FREEPORT, Maine _With spring, and a busy lambing season around the corner, sheep farmers are starting to start shear their flocks, but experts say farmers often can't find the trained help they need.
"Every year people say I can't find a shearer, or my shearer is not available, or any shearer is not available," says Richard Brzozowski, a small ruminant specialist with University of Maine Cooperative Extension. He says as farming continues to grow a shearing skills gap is starting to be noticed, and with money to be made from perfect fleeces, it's not something just anyone should attempt.
"Everybody that has sheep wants to have good quality wool or the highest quality wool they can," says Brzozowski, "and if the shearer doesn't know what he or she is doing they can mess up a nice fleece pretty quickly."
But with a dearth of professional shearers in Maine, Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sheepbreeders Association are offering a series of shearing classes this spring to teach the art. Brzozowski says the introductory class, held over the weekend at Wolf's Neck Farm in Freeport, sold out quickly.
Subsequent classes are scheduled though April, including a blade shearing class which teaches how to shear without electricity.
Professional shearers negotiate a price per sheep, and can earn upwards of $70 per hour, with each sheep shorn in a matter of minutes.