North Dakota Shearing, Classing Schools Attract Wide Range of Students
In the calm before the storm, Wade Kopren’s moccasins lay prone on the platform while he and a handful of professional shearers hand out last-minute instructions to 24 students at the annual North Dakota Shearing School, hosted by the North Dakota State University Hettinger Research Extension Center on Nov. 18-20.
A few minutes later, however, they went to work as he pulled a ewe to his station and took care of the first few “blows” required to separate the animal from its wool fleece. Cutter in place, his handpiece almost glided between the animal’s skin and wool. Once he reached a certain point, a student took control of the handpiece to finish the job. Running the tool for the last couple of blows is a great way for beginners to get acquainted with the task.
Students in the school came from as far away as California and Oregon and from as close as just down the street to learn one of the sheep industry’s most important skills. There’s definitely an art to removing sheep’s wool proficiently – which helps producers maximize their profit on this valuable commodity. Just steps from the hoop barn where a handful of professional shearers spent three days teaching their craft, ASI Raw Wool Services Consultant Lisa Surber spent three days teaching the equally challenging art of wool classing to more than a dozen students. As the weekend progressed, the two schools became one at times to allow the classing students to assess the fleeces as they were removed by the shearing students.
Experienced shearer Katherine Ritchie traveled from Oregon to be a student for the weekend.
“Leann Brimmer suggested I attend this school,” she said. “I wanted to get more experience on fine wool sheep, because they’re more difficult to shear than the Suffolks we shear a lot back home. I’ve definitely learned a few things here that I can take home.”