First Ever Sheep Shearing at Black Hills Stock Show | TheFencePost.com

First Ever Sheep Shearing at Black Hills Stock Show

Gayle SmithMarty Hoffman of Malta, Mont., competes in the Intermediate Competition. Hoffman was second overall in the Intermediates.

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The contest involved some of the top shearers in the country. Sixteen competitors entered the professional division at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City and the top eight were chosen to compete in the final round of competition.

When the scores were tallied, Tony Troendle of Sturgis, S.D., was declared the winner of the event. He was able to shear his eight sheep with a total time of nine minutes and 13 seconds. Alex Moser of Steen, Minn., was second and Dave Foley of Kaycee, Wyo., was the third place winner.

The contest, which was held for the first time during the Black Hills Stock Show, may become the second leg of a three-contest event. The three scores from the three events would determine the top shearers in the United States. Those winners would represent the United States in international competition, which is at least two years away. Currently, the national champions and the U.S. shearing team are chosen during one contest at the National Western.

Curt Olson of Broadus, Mont., who organized the event, said the BHSS event would join contests in Miles City, Mont., and the National Western Stock Show in Denver if the shearers vote in favor of having a three-leg event.

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The Rapid City event was free to the public and drew in quite a crowd before the event ended. “In addition to the public, there were a lot of shearers in the stands that didn’t compete in Rapid City,” Olson said. “They were there to support the contest and the industry.”

The event started off with a blade shearing demonstration. Two shearers showed the crowd how to shear a sheep with hand blades. Olson said it took them about four minutes for each sheep.

When the electric shearing contest began, there were three categories of competition: beginner, intermediate and professional. Each contestant sheared eight head in the preliminary round. Judges watched the shearers and scored them not only for speed, but also for condition of the fleece, the number of nicks, second cuts in the wool, appearance of the sheep and handling. “In the back, the judge turns the sheep over and counts every single nick,” he said.

Helpers removed the fleece as the shearers finished up each sheep and helped keep the area clean. Many of the shearers, ready for a full day of shearing came prepared in comfortable clothing including special moccasins that allowed them more mobility to maneuver the sheep. The moccasins have no sole so they are easier on the feet, one contestant said. They also give the shearers better traction in the dirt and slime that builds up on the stage. Olson said the moccasins are heelless, which allows the shearer to bend over further and keeps stress of the back.

In addition to the professional competition, 11 shearers entered the intermediate, and eight entered the beginner’s competition. There were many prizes. Besides trophies, belt buckles (the shearers called them a shield) and other gifts, Olson said there was a $2,000 purse from BHSS. The sheep growers associations from Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming also contributed prize money in each division, which was given to the individuals from their respective states whose sheep had the best appearance score. “I thought it was a nice touch the states contributed to the event,” Olson said. “It was important that they backed the shearers from their state.”

Olson was excited to receive word that the contest would be included in the 2010 BHSS. “Our goal was to make it a contest for the shearers and entertaining and educational for the public,” he said.

In addition to the blade shearing demonstration, Olson said they hope to add a crank shearing demonstration to the lineup for the event. He would also like to add a Saturday evening social the night before the event to have a short meeting and give shearers the opportunity to visit and have a drink. The organizer said they are trying to do what they can to educate the public, and especially young people about sheep.

Olson, who is a former national shearing champion, said shearing has become somewhat of a lost art. Since the sharp decline in sheep numbers from 45 million in 1967, to about 4 million now, shearers for existing flocks aren’t easy to find. Olson estimated there are about 3,000 shearers left in the United States. “A lot of people shear their own sheep,” Olson said. “They can’t find anyone else.”

However, Olson has done his part to keep the art going. For the last 19 years, he has been an instructor for sheep shearing schools at South Dakota State University and in Hettinger, N.D., at the sheep experiment station. The three-day school had 14 participants at North Dakota and 17 in South Dakota. Olson said the course is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day and students will shear approximately 500-600 sheep during the course. He said the course covers grinding, tools, hand pieces, setting up and preparation of wool.

“A lot of people attend shearing school just to learn the proper techniques to shear their own sheep,” Olson explained. “They don’t want to hurt their animals so they come to learn the proper way to hold them.”

“During this class, everyone will learn every aspect of shearing,” Olson said. “Everyone stays busy. The program has been very successful and has turned out some very good shearers.”

Olson added that most of the students who take the class have no experience with sheep. “I teach this class differently than anyone else. I teach them to shear backwards,” Olson explained. “They learn the footwork involved in holding a sheep and the mental work. I am a good shearing instructor, but I’ve had 19 years to learn.”

Olson said he felt proud watching the beginner’s group at the BHSSS. “In the beginning group of the BHSS, most all the finalists had been to shearing school. I hope to see more of my students in next year’s contest,” he added.

The contest involved some of the top shearers in the country. Sixteen competitors entered the professional division at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City and the top eight were chosen to compete in the final round of competition.

When the scores were tallied, Tony Troendle of Sturgis, S.D., was declared the winner of the event. He was able to shear his eight sheep with a total time of nine minutes and 13 seconds. Alex Moser of Steen, Minn., was second and Dave Foley of Kaycee, Wyo., was the third place winner.

The contest, which was held for the first time during the Black Hills Stock Show, may become the second leg of a three-contest event. The three scores from the three events would determine the top shearers in the United States. Those winners would represent the United States in international competition, which is at least two years away. Currently, the national champions and the U.S. shearing team are chosen during one contest at the National Western.

Curt Olson of Broadus, Mont., who organized the event, said the BHSS event would join contests in Miles City, Mont., and the National Western Stock Show in Denver if the shearers vote in favor of having a three-leg event.

The Rapid City event was free to the public and drew in quite a crowd before the event ended. “In addition to the public, there were a lot of shearers in the stands that didn’t compete in Rapid City,” Olson said. “They were there to support the contest and the industry.”

The event started off with a blade shearing demonstration. Two shearers showed the crowd how to shear a sheep with hand blades. Olson said it took them about four minutes for each sheep.

When the electric shearing contest began, there were three categories of competition: beginner, intermediate and professional. Each contestant sheared eight head in the preliminary round. Judges watched the shearers and scored them not only for speed, but also for condition of the fleece, the number of nicks, second cuts in the wool, appearance of the sheep and handling. “In the back, the judge turns the sheep over and counts every single nick,” he said.

Helpers removed the fleece as the shearers finished up each sheep and helped keep the area clean. Many of the shearers, ready for a full day of shearing came prepared in comfortable clothing including special moccasins that allowed them more mobility to maneuver the sheep. The moccasins have no sole so they are easier on the feet, one contestant said. They also give the shearers better traction in the dirt and slime that builds up on the stage. Olson said the moccasins are heelless, which allows the shearer to bend over further and keeps stress of the back.

In addition to the professional competition, 11 shearers entered the intermediate, and eight entered the beginner’s competition. There were many prizes. Besides trophies, belt buckles (the shearers called them a shield) and other gifts, Olson said there was a $2,000 purse from BHSS. The sheep growers associations from Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming also contributed prize money in each division, which was given to the individuals from their respective states whose sheep had the best appearance score. “I thought it was a nice touch the states contributed to the event,” Olson said. “It was important that they backed the shearers from their state.”

Olson was excited to receive word that the contest would be included in the 2010 BHSS. “Our goal was to make it a contest for the shearers and entertaining and educational for the public,” he said.

In addition to the blade shearing demonstration, Olson said they hope to add a crank shearing demonstration to the lineup for the event. He would also like to add a Saturday evening social the night before the event to have a short meeting and give shearers the opportunity to visit and have a drink. The organizer said they are trying to do what they can to educate the public, and especially young people about sheep.

Olson, who is a former national shearing champion, said shearing has become somewhat of a lost art. Since the sharp decline in sheep numbers from 45 million in 1967, to about 4 million now, shearers for existing flocks aren’t easy to find. Olson estimated there are about 3,000 shearers left in the United States. “A lot of people shear their own sheep,” Olson said. “They can’t find anyone else.”

However, Olson has done his part to keep the art going. For the last 19 years, he has been an instructor for sheep shearing schools at South Dakota State University and in Hettinger, N.D., at the sheep experiment station. The three-day school had 14 participants at North Dakota and 17 in South Dakota. Olson said the course is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day and students will shear approximately 500-600 sheep during the course. He said the course covers grinding, tools, hand pieces, setting up and preparation of wool.

“A lot of people attend shearing school just to learn the proper techniques to shear their own sheep,” Olson explained. “They don’t want to hurt their animals so they come to learn the proper way to hold them.”

“During this class, everyone will learn every aspect of shearing,” Olson said. “Everyone stays busy. The program has been very successful and has turned out some very good shearers.”

Olson added that most of the students who take the class have no experience with sheep. “I teach this class differently than anyone else. I teach them to shear backwards,” Olson explained. “They learn the footwork involved in holding a sheep and the mental work. I am a good shearing instructor, but I’ve had 19 years to learn.”

Olson said he felt proud watching the beginner’s group at the BHSSS. “In the beginning group of the BHSS, most all the finalists had been to shearing school. I hope to see more of my students in next year’s contest,” he added.


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