I built a capture pen inside the pasture, bought the necessary equipment, and a book explaining exactly what to do. I tried to visualize the holds and moves displayed in the book. I attended a hands-on training session at the university, which ended up more like the Friday Night Smackdown.
The first obstacle was catching the sheep. Shetlands are wily and fast. I rigged a rope on the capture pen gate and placed feed in a trough at the back of the pen. Five ewes warily entered the enclosure. I yanked the rope, slammed the gate, the sheep whirled, and blasted it open again.
I waited until they came into their night pen and the lean-to they slept under. I had a 10-foot gate section ready and quietly approached from the back to quickly slide that over the opening. Then tied the gate securely to the roof supports and waited for morning.
Five pairs of furious orbs lasered into me as I approached in the morning. With their back ends pressed against the wall, they dared me.
Climbing over the fence, I grabbed for the nearest critter, and the scrum began. I hung onto one hind leg and was trampled in the melee. I got that sheep off the ground, holding it with my arms wrapped around its body, legs kicking. Grace was ready at the gate and slowly opened one end as I backed out with my captive.
I carried the sheep to the spread tarp and set it on its butt, putting it between my legs just the way the book showed. I grasped the chin in my left hand, the electric shearing machine in my right. The first strokes with the device were ineffective as I kept it too far off the skin. Then I remembered from the university training about stretching the skin tight and running the clipper on the skin. I went deeper into the fleece--too deep and drew blood. Grace dosed the cuts with an antiseptic spray that looked like strawberry jam.
I changed position as my back began to ache and ran the electric shearer up the side with better results. I did what I could, and the sheep finally began to relax. When I got near the head, my false confidence waned, and I changed to the hand shears, thinking I’d do less damage to the poor animal.
The pros do this in minutes, sheep after sheep after sheep. At the end of an hour, I had removed part of the fleece in unusable pieces, nicked the poor animal several times, cut myself twice, and was ready to drop from exhaustion.
I released the red dotted, tufted animal, and quit for the day. Thankfully, Grace kindly said, “I know you’ll do better tomorrow.”