Once again SUNY Cobleskill has set precedence in providing the educational tools farmers need for success in professional endeavors in the fiber industry.
A recently offered 3-day Shearing Workshop certification complemented the Fiber Grading, Sorting, Classing certificate earned through an innovative 3-day workshop last year.
Franc Winkley, nationally known and respected shearing professional of Premium Harvest Shearing, based out of Battle Ground, WA, shared his wealth of knowledge on shearing and animal welfare during the shearing process.
Linda Serdy, SUNY Cobleskill, Program Coordinator Office of Professional and Continuing Education (P.A.C.E.) attended the shearing workshop. Serdy explained the instructors from the Fiber Grading, Sorting, Classing workshop recommended Winkley.
“Our instructor Franc has been teaching fiber animal farmers and professional shearers how to shear in seminars and workshops across the U.S.,” said Serdy.
“I shear across the United States,” confirmed Winkley. “In alpaca we shear anywhere from 1,700 up to 2,500 in one season.”
Additionally over 2,000 sheep and more than 300 llamas are also part of Winkley’s seasonal shearing.
“So we’re doing this constantly on farm after farm after farm,” said Winkley. “And the only thing I noticed on each and every farm is that they all differ.”
Concern for the animal was foremost in Winkley’s presentation.
Winkley, who was accompanied at the workshop by his 12-year-old son Harrison, told attendees the first thing that will lead to success is the way folks handle their animals.
“You should be calm, relaxed and have a connection with your animals. That’s the number one start on your shearing day. You’re not stressed out and your not running around and you’re not stressing your animals out. That’s going to be our number one thought.”
Next on the list of priorities was the main reason for the workshop; shearing.
“Most importantly, right here in the classroom, is how to handle your machine, how to adjust your machine; the ins and outs of what the machine is going to be doing. You’ve got a big, aggressive machine, and if you understand the little intricacies of how to actually set it, it works 10,000 times better than if you don’t.”
Winkley said there are numerous classes around the U.S. that attempt to teach how to shear, however, many students that have taken other classes have ended up in Winkley’s classes because they had never learned proper use of shearing machines.
Winkley taught attendees how to choose appropriate machines, how to determine which comb or cutter to use, how to adjust combs and tension, how to hold the machine, angles to use and what amount of pressure to use. Various approaches for troubleshooting problems with machines were discussed.
Techniques and patterns in shearing for each animal’s body type was an important feature.
“Your positioning of the machine has a lot to do with the body contour of the animal.”
Realizing the individual animal’s body contour will help to avoid nipping the animal with the shearing machine and is essential for producing a quality fleece.
Winkley said when shearing alpaca, every section of the body produces a blanket.
He instructed attendees to skirt, or take of the belly area, legs and any other contaminated areas of the blanket, first.
Hands-on shearing and restraint of sheep, alpaca and goats were practiced by each attendee over the course of the workshop.
Professional llama shearer John Conboy of Schoharie Llamas, Schoharie, NY, attended the 3-day workshop.
“I enjoyed the shearing clinic at Cobleskill,” commented Conboy, who shears approximately 250 camelids a year, with about 60 percent alpaca.
“Franc did a great job in his class,” said Conboy. “The way Franc and his son Harrison took great care on placing their alpaca down on the mats showed their love for the animals. The way they worked as a team impressed me.”
Conboy said he “learned many things about the removal of the fiber that I have transferred into my shearing business.”
Eliminating second cuts in blanket areas is one thing he learned to do more precisely. “I want to do a better job of removing fiber for my clients, so they will have a better quality of fiber to use,” Conboy remarked. “I feel Franc helped me in this goal of doing a better job.”
Winkley says the trend in the natural fiber industry is to join together.
“In the industry right now, lot of the organizations are melding together with natural fibers,” Winkley reported. “As opposed to just being camelid, sheep, angora, mohair, etc. It’s so much better now.”
“Our goal is to give uniformed instruction in shearing and fiber collection across the United States,” said Serdy. “Uniformity is the key and SUNY Cobleskill is providing the educational tools needed for farmers to shear with professional precision. The better a fiber collection is, the better the increase in profit will be.”
Finalizing the workshop, all students were graded on their final animal sheared.
“So, even though we had a minimal of condensed time, we moved forward efficiently, focusing on student involvement and applying the knowledge taught in the classroom,” Serdy remarked. “Students were given the opportunity to shear sheep, alpaca and cashmere goats. With application comes confidence. ‘Real Life – Real Learning’ that is what SUNY Cobleskill is about!”