Washington State University 



Washington State University (WSU) Extension Sheep Production and Management Courses


An increase in sheep profitability, the number of small farms, and the use of sheep for natural resource management, increased the number of sheep operations in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) by six percent from 2002 to 2007.  The PNW region has a diverse and bountiful agricultural industry, which provides an excellent opportunity for the number of sheep produced in the region to expand.  The opportunity for future expansion of sheep numbers and operations can only be achieved and sustained by developing knowledgeable producers and a skilled workforce.  Educational outreach programs for sheep producers, stakeholders and the workforce need to support recruitment, education, training, and retention of quality individuals within all segments of the sheep industry.



March 10, 2012: WSU LAMB 100 Short Course was held in Spokane, Washington. WSU LAMB 100 was designed for beginning farmers, but was also an excellent energizer for experienced sheep producers to expand opportunities and sustainability of their current sheep operation. The one‐day program helped sheep producers increase their knowledge on how to produce safe, high‐quality food animals profitably; while producing the animals in an environmental and animal care conscious manner. The short courses addressed opportunities and issues to enhance the production, safety and quality of lamb and wool production from the farm to the consumer.

April 2‐13, 2012: The Washington State Shearing Schools were held the first two weeks of April. Two five‐day Beginner’s Schools and one one‐day Advanced School were held. The schools were held to help address the need for skilled sheep shearers. The school implements both classroom and extensive hands‐on training to ensure students developed skills and knowledge necessary to achieve an efficient quality wool harvest and ensure proper animal care. To establish demanded high‐quality wool clip from the farm to the market place, producers, wool consultants, and wool pool coordinators were also incorporated in the educational process. Shearing students also receive information of various sheep production related issues and an extensive resource manual to provide sheep producers with additional information. Many sheep producers do not have consultants or even identified veterinarian, but they will consult with a sheep shearer at least once a year. In addition to training the skills of shearing, a mentoring process has been implemented to encourage beginning shearers to partner with past Washington State Shearing School graduates to gain confidence, “on‐the‐road skills”, and professional contacts.


WSU LAMB 100: Twenty‐two (22) participants from the Pacific Northwest received basic education about lamb and wool production, including different production systems; genetics and breeding; feeds and nutrition; record keeping and budgets; direct marketing rules and regulations; sheep health and diseases; and producing and identifying the optimal lamb and wool products. Also, included in the course was a discussion on “Do I have what it takes to raise sheep and how do I to get started.”Participants learned how management, environmental, nutritional, and genetic factors contribute to meat quality and consumers’ eating experience. A follow‐up evaluation will be conducted during the fall of 2012 to determine the impact of the WSU LAMB 100 short course.

Washington State Shearing School: Thirty‐two (32) students successfully completed the five‐day beginner class. Seven advanced students completed the Advanced one‐day class. The students learned proper shearing techniques, equipment care and handling, wool production and marketing, sheep husbandry, quality assurance issues, and animal handling. Students from Washington, Oregon, Utah, Georgia and Canada participated in the 2012 schools. In addition to the students, over forty‐five (45) producers and industry stakeholders participated in the educational demonstrations concerning wool quality and sheep handling issues.
Shearers and individuals participating in the school have become more knowledgeable about good management practices pertaining to lamb and wool production, wool harvest, marketing, and proper animal husbandry. In addition to providing training to teach the skill of shearing, the school also placed significant educational efforts on students and participants learning how to harvest, package, and market a high‐quality wool clip, and how to handle sheep to ensure the animals’ well being and to promote bio-security during the shearing process. The extensive educational approach will not only help improve the wool clip quality, but also animal production, animal care/health and the livelihood of individuals earning income from sheep and/or shearing.

A course evaluation was distributed within one month of completion of the 2012 Beginners Schools.

The following are evaluation comments from 2012 shearing students:

“This class was perfect for me to become more self-reliant, so I can shear myself.”

“I have started a shearing business and I expect that 50% of my earnings will be from shearing.”

“I sheared for a friend on Sunday that I got home [from the school], and have been shearing at

least 3 times a week since. My business is off to a great start.”

“I am still really wowed by the course. The physical classroom [shearing trailer] is a masterpiece

of workmanship. So very well thought through, making it easy for students to learn to shear.”

“Please keep offering this course—it is sorely needed by more than just Washington folks!”

“Thank you for an amazing and very intense experience”

“This was one of the greatest experiences. I feel confident in my ability to shear—I am generally

more confident”

“I was happy to see young people here with plans to make either a business or a large piece of

their income [from shearing]. It means that there will be shearers coming up.”

“[After the completion of the school] I was able to join a shearing gang.”

“This school is far better option than one-day course. It leaves options for the future. Just wish I

was able to find this career option 20 years ago.”