Animal Care & Welfare

Farmers and ranchers who raise sheep in the United States take great pride in the care they provide for their animals and do not condone or defend mistreatment or abuse of sheep either intentionally or unintentionally. These principles hold true for all management practices, including the shearing of sheep -- a necessary process that is of great benefit to the animals’ own welfare. Sheep must be shorn regularly to prevent excess wool from interfering with their bodies’ ability to thermo-regulate. Excessive wool coats also make the sheep more vulnerable to becoming immobilized by physical obstacles in the environment and more susceptible to predator and parasite attacks. Annual shearings using approved, standardized handling techniques are designed for the comfort and wellbeing of the sheep. Shearing generally takes place before the lambing season in order to aid in lamb health and survival. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), along with its member farmers and ranchers, promote and encourage the training of proper sheep handling and shearing. ASI provides its members with the Sheep Care Guide, an educational document for proper care, handling and management of sheep as an industry standard for sheep care. ASI also sponsors training for sheep shearers and provides educational material on proper shearing techniques.

Official Statement from the American Society of Animal Science Board of Directors

As long as there are sheep, shearing must be practiced for the health and hygiene of each individual animal. Unlike other animals, most sheep are unable to shed. If a sheep goes too long without being shorn, a number of problems occur.
  • The excess wool impedes the ability of sheep to regulate their body temperatures. This can cause sheep to become overheated and die.
  • Urine, feces and other materials become trapped in the wool, attracting flies, maggots and other pests. This causes irritation, infections and endangers the health of the animal.
  • Sheep with large amounts of wool can become immobilized by physical obstacles in their path and are more susceptible to predator attacks.

A real-life example of the importance of regular shearing came in from Australia when a hiker spotted a sheep that had escaped shearing for what is predicted to be five or six years.

Read the story here .
Sheep Care Guide
The well-being of their sheep is an important consideration for all sheep producers. This Sheep Care Guide was developed to serve as a reference for the sheep producer using a variety of management and production systems and has been written in recognition of an ethical responsibility for the humane care of animals. It is not intended to be an exhaustive review of all aspects of animal care; supplemental information on such topics as breeding, feeding, housing, predation, health, and management is available in other publications including those listed in the References section. An attempt has been made to provide information about sheep care practices which are based on research findings and which are consistent with a program of quality assurance.

The IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare
The IWTO Guidelines to Wool Sheep Welfare are based on the universally recognised five freedoms. While specifically relevant to the global wool sheep production industry, these good welfare practices are closely aligned with the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. The objective of these guidelines is to clearly define and widely promote animal welfare practices in wool production, relevant to the wide diversity of production environments around the globe. The document has been developed through a consultative process involving representatives of individual grower countries and technical internal and external experts in the fields of animal welfare and veterinary science, through the IWTO Sustainable Practices Working Group. The guidelines will be of significant assistance to spinners and weavers working closely with downstream manufacturers in the global market. IWTO's intent is that these guidelines provide a ready resource for anyone interested in the applicable standards for wool sheep production globally, and for those interested in development or refinement of individual country codes. It will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

International Wool Textile Organization Wool Roadmap
Wool is a natural fibre for the world we live in today. It is a fibre with a true ‘green’ lineage that is both sustainable and biodegradable - which are now highly valuable assets to the textile industry. This environmental advantage is increasingly a sought after requirement of fibre but wool has many other inherent benefits that have historically earned it a quality reputation from global manufacturers and consumers. Performance is critical in textiles and wool’s multi-capable reputation in the finished product is built on a legacy that goes back over 10,000 years. Transcending generations of change shows the vast potential of wool to meet, adapt and fulfil complex product scenarios. Wool offers practical attributes that far exceed man-made fibres and as it is grown, not made, its physical cell structure is complex allowing wool the natural ability to breathe. Uniquely it absorbs and releases humidity and provides a climate that is capable of adjusting to individual situations which ensures you are warm but never hot. In addition, it is the safe fibre - a high water and nitrogen content make it naturally flame retardant and it meets many international regulations without the need for chemical treatments. It absorbs unhealthy carbons in the atmosphere providing a better environment. Wool is a globally traded commodity and its market diversity is vast and ever expanding. It is found in many sectors; apparel and fashion, activewear, flooring and interiors, aviation, architecture, manufacturing, medical use and protective apparel. These all use wool and with this dynamic versatility, it has proved itself to be the original ‘Smart’ fibre.