Galeton brothers compete in Sheep Shearing Contest at NWSS | TheFencePost.com

Galeton brothers compete in Sheep Shearing Contest at NWSS

by Tony Bruguiere
Fort Collins, Colo.

Maximiano Larralde of Galeton, Colorado competes in the NWSS sheep shearing contest. The sheep is not tranquilized. As long as Maximiano keeps the feet of the sheep off of the floor and the body of the sheep between his legs, the sheep is pretty docile.

The Sheep Shearing Contest at the National Western Stock Show is a very popular event. With Colorado sheep, lamb, and wool production ranking fourth in the nation, its popularity comes as no surprise. Figures are not in for 2007, but, according to the Colorado field office of the USDA, in 2006 there were 390,000 head of sheep and lambs in Colorado and wool production was over 2.65 million pounds. The price of wool was down and the value of production still totaled $1.67 million dollars. This year the price of wool is expected to be around $1.00 per pound.

Sheep shearing is a specialized skill that requires a lot of hard work. With anything that requires a large degree of skill, people will get together to compete to see who is better. The Sheep Shearing Contest at the National Western Stock Show has four divisions, Junior, Intermediate, Senior, and Professional.

This year’s competition saw two brothers, Peter and Maximiano Larralde from Galeton, Colo., competing for buckles in their respective divisions. Peter Larralde competes in the Junior Division and his older brother Maximiano competes in the Intermediate Division. Peter has been shearing since he was 5 and he is now 16. He keeps in shape for contests by working summers with his parents who own Shearing Contractors in Galeton, Colo.

This is Peter’s fifth year competing at the National Western Stock Show. “Third place has been my best finish. Last year I finished sixth. This year, I plan to do much better,” said Peter. “In the field, I can usually finish a sheep in around two minutes, and a good time when I’m competing would be 1-minute-30 or -40.”

Speed to complete the shearing is only one factor in the competition. There are judges watching during the shearing who look at how the sheep is handled, how even the fleece is, and how many second-cuts are required. After the sheep has been sheared, it is passed to a second group of judges who closely look at how smooth and even the cut has been on the sheep, how close to the skin the cut is, and count the number of nicks and cuts to the sheep.

Juniors like Peter cut two sheep and Intermediates, like his brother Maximiano, cut three sheep. Scores for the sheep are averaged and the total scores are based on the number of deductions – lowest score wins.

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Like his brother, Maximiano Larralde learned to shear sheep from his parents.

“Dad taught us to shear and we both enjoyed it. We stayed with it and now we are competing.” Maximiano is 18 and on his High School football and wrestling teams, but he finds time in the summer to travel across Colorado with the family business. Maximiano has been competing for ten years and doing very well. Two years ago he won first in the Junior Division and last year he took second in the Intermediate Division.

In case you are wondering where they get all the sheep for the contest, they are provided by Harper Feed Lot in Greeley. In return for providing the sheep, the wool from the contest goes back to Harper Feed Lot where it will be mixed with longer grade wool and sold.

Put the Sheep Shearing Contest on your list of things to see at the National Western Stock Show. It is both entertaining and informative.