Top Gun Shearing
March 13, 2012
At first glance, sheep shearer K.C. Millsap’s homemade, portable shearing trailer doesn’t seem too out-of-the ordinary. About 18-feet long, 8-feet wide and a bit rusty after a dozen years in use, it appears more like an old refrigeration unit until you take a closer look. “I built the flatbed during High School,” the 30-year-old father of two told me. “My dad (Ted) helped and my brother Bobby, who is an electrician, added the wiring in 2005. It cost me about $800 in sheet metal and other materials and $600 in square tubing.” Not a bad investment, especially when you consider that although it’s roomy enough inside to hold two shearers and four sheep, the trailer is so lightweight that it can be easily towed with a regular-sized pick-up.
The trailer is just right for travelling to small farms and backing up against holding pens. “Some people bring their pet sheep over to my house, and I’ll sheer them after work (he installs ductwork on air conditioners),” K.C. added.
Depending on the number, he usually charges $4.00 per animal and has quite a few repeat clientele – no surprise when you consider that he “started doing 4-H lambs on a stand” at the age of 12. Understanding the need for a smooth, stress-free process, K.C. designed the unit with all sorts of special features including a rear, drop-down ramp which guides the sheep into a slightly elevated holding area; a single-wide, interior gate through which each critter can be deftly rolled downward, off its feet; three exit ramps (two on one side plus another in back); a storage corner for the freshly-cut wool; and even a narrow, foot-level opening through which it can be kicked outside for collection. “Most people don’t want to mess with the wool, though, so I keep it to sell. It’s a bonus.” He bales and stores it until a truck comes to haul the entire load to a Texas plant, where it’s then sorted and shipped to different places for processing.
The little, 3/4 horse motor that powers the electric shears is one of the “universal kind that is used in air conditioning and other stuff,” he explained while quickly and efficiently shearing a ewe. Powered by an extension cord which is plugged into the host barn or house, it is bolted to the ceiling, out of the way, and has both a long pull-cord plus a double-hinged arm that attaches to the clippers. Nothing is left dangling to get in the way. “Sheep are naturally super-docile animals,” K.C. continued while rolling her from side to side. “To save your back …” he paused for a moment to add a little more oil to the engine after it started sputtering … “you have to keep your legs straight.”
Later, after asking how he’d come up with the name “Top Gun” for his business, I learned that “a top gun is someone who can shear 200-plus sheep in a day.” Most of K.C.’s bunches, however, are under 100 head (“I’m a squirt gun,” he joked) although the most he’s done at one time was 150. “THAT day my body was really, really sore,” he admitted. “The key is you have to be in shape.” And be willing and able to tow your work shop along behind you whenever duty calls, whatever the size of the herd.
For more information on Top Gun Shearing, phone (970) 249-5543 or e-mail K.C. and his wife, Kari, at CedarCreekLambs@yahoo.com.