Sheep Shearing With Hand Shears at Romanian Sheepfold
Spring has finally arrived to waken the green meadows covering the hills with wildflowers raising from the earth, wearing bold colors, each one so much more than any photograph. Soon, the fields will not be brown at all, but swathes of waving green. Upon a hill stands a hut, with a big flock of sheep grazing nearby, moving randomly, until a shepherd sends a dog to round them up. At once they clump together as a herd, moving in the same direction toward a fenced enclosure. Once the gate is closed, the job is done. This is the sheepfold, where we recorded the best artisan cheese-making recipes, with over 2 mil views on Youtube. Once they are penned up, the shearers are sharpening the shears, both hand, and electric ones, in preparation for one of the hardest tasks at a sheepfold: sheep shearing. Each spring, sheep must take their winter coats off, otherwise, they overheat during summer and the next year’s growth will add to it, causing decreased mobility and overheating.
„Sheep are sheared once a year, in the warm season, usually in May or June. Here we don’t have electricity, so we do the work by hand, with sheep shears. We also use an electric clipper and a generator to keep it going”, says one of the owners, Ion Coajă. The flock is formed of the shepherd’s own sheep, mainly of Țurcana breeds, and also those of local villagers that pay for their services. In spring, villagers of Iaslovăț leave their sheep grazing on nearby meadows close to the village in the shepherd’s care. Here they are in good care and protected from predators by two hut keepers, who live and work with the sheep for twenty-four hours a day, sleeping in huts, just meters away from the sheepfold, with guardian dogs at service all through the night.
Shepherding is difficult, you need to be tough as old boots. Aside from grazing, sheep need to be cared for when they are sick, milked twice a day, dipped for parasites. But one of the most difficult tasks to tackle as a shepherd is, by far, sheep shearing. For the first time, I see what shearing is about. Having to deal with hundreds of sheep, is physically challenging. The job involves plenty of heavy lifting and maneuvering of each sheep. All work is conducted outdoors, making it even more challenging in intense heat or wet weather. There are five shearers, three using hand clippers and two with electric clippers. Shearing the whole flock can last for weeks. It doesn’t hurt the sheep, it’s just like getting a haircut. Each sheep is quietly waiting for the shearer to finish the job, then happily joins her sisters.
This reminds me of the ancient prophecy of Isaiah 53, where Jesus is compared to a lamb because He was meek and non-threatening: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed…He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; … as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
Although sheep shearing is considered by some to be an unacceptable practice, it is actually more cruel not to do it, because sheep don’t have the ability to shed their fleece without human intervention.
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