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We talked to Felipe Molina from Ganadería Las Albaidas about the shearing of Merino sheep.

Shearer shearing a Merino sheep
Shearer shearing a Merino sheep

At this time of year when the heat begins to make itself felt, sheep farmers get down to work and start shearing sheep. We wanted to take the opportunity to talk to him and let him share with all of us what it is like and how this procedure has changed over time.

Do you normally shear the sheep every year in the same month or depending on the weather and the availability of shearers?

They are sheared once a year between April and May, depending on the weather, especially to avoid rain (wet wool deteriorates if stored).

We understand that it is already done by machine and not by scissors. Does the process change depending on the breed of sheep?

For years, they have been sheared by machine, which is faster and more efficient. What has been changing is the way the shearer handles the sheep during the shearing process. Nowadays, the Australian method is used, where the sheep is not tied and in sheep with a lot of wool, such as the Merina, the shearing process does not usually take more than 2 minutes.

Nowadays, due to the devalued price of wool, there is not much income from this product, so shearing is limited to a method of animal welfare, as it avoids heat during the summer and parasitic diseases.

What do you do with the wool after shearing and do you clean the wool and dispose of the residues on the farm?

Una vez se esquila la oveja, se recoge el vellón, y se clasifica (se quitan impurezas manualmente y restos de lana de peor calidad), una vez clasificado se mete en una saca, hasta llenarlas estas, con unos 80-100 kg de lana (el vellón de Merino es de una media de 3kg, por oveja)

The process of shearing Merino sheep at the Las Albaidas livestock farm (Córdoba).

In your case, does the wool go to the Spanish or international market, and how about the price?

Today, practically all the quality wool, i.e. Merino wool, ends up in China. Here there are companies and cooperatives that receive the wool from the farmers and wash and package it to send it by ship to China, where it will be processed into textiles, and these garments will return here to the West.

The price of prime wool rose somewhat in 2017-18-19, but since the pandemic it has fallen and today it is paid at around 0.70 per kilo to the farmer.

Is it hard to find shearers?

Shearing is a hard and seasonal job (about 3 months a year), although it is well paid, about 1,60€ – 1,70€ per sheep, making an average of 150/180 sheep per day. So few people do this work here, therefore, Spanish companies hire Uruguayan shearers, who shear 60% of the sheep in Spain.

The Uruguayan shearers make a year-round living from this work, as they shear here in spring and then leave for their homeland where the austral spring soon arrives.

Approximately how long does it take to shear a sheep, and from what age should they be shorn? 1 year old?

It takes between 1.5 – 2 minutes per ewe, and is usually done from 7-8 months of age.

Finally, how do new technologies influence your daily work?

Well, at Las Albaidas we like to combine the traditional breeding and grazing system with the application of new technologies. Today we are one of the few livestock farms certified by the Halal Institute. On the other hand, we have participated together with the School of Agricultural Engineering and Forestry of the UCO, as well as digitanimal, in projects such as Cattlechain, to certify the traceability of wool and lamb products using blockchain technology.

Sheep gps collars
Merino ewes with digitanimal GPS device

On a day-to-day basis, we use GPS trackers to monitor the movements of our Merino sheep during daily grazing, as well as transhumance movements between farms.

Las Albaidas Livestock
From Cordoba to China, blockchain-certified wool from Las Albaidas (Cordoba)

From digitanimal we would like to thank again Ganadería Las Albaidas for sharing with us all this information. Now your livestock will be able to show off even more our GPS collars for sheep, thank you very much!

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