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October 27, 2018: Sheep Shearing Class

A group of sixteen sheep producers and wool enthusiasts came to Karl Hamson’s barn on Pender Island for the first Wool Classification course in BC, taught by wool education coordinator for the American Sheep Industry Association, Dr. Lisa Surber.

The course was to improve wool education for producers and fibre enthusiasts and to assist in improving the overall quality and economic value of the Canadian wool clip.

The participants came from around BC and the US  for the course held October 25-27, joined by two local farmers, Jodi Schamberger and Austin Davies, who provided the sheep for the shearing demonstration and hands-on wool classification.  

The course was organized by Charlene Thompson, a wool enthusiast who saw a need and a way to support the growing interest in local fibre and the new mill in the Saanich Peninsula.

Lisa McKinley Surber, PhD, a certified wool classing instructor, has been offering this curriculum across the US. The potential for increasing the value of BC and Canadian wool, diversifying products from wool, including non-textile products, were emphasized.

Dr. Surber was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta and went to Montana State University, receiving a BS in Animal Science, a MS in ruminant nutrition, and a PhD in forage genetics.  She worked in the wool lab at MSU for 7 years. She took every opportunity “to see more wool”, becoming a level 4 wool classer by visiting ranches and farms in her spare time to practice her classifying skills.

“A wool classer is a professional who provides expertise to growers, shearers, and wool marketing agencies, following an industry-accepted code of practice in the  preparation of wool and sorting by quality,” says Surber.

Pieter Demooy was the shearer for the course, adding his own expertise as a professional shearer. Peter was trained in New Zealand and Australia and has sheared sheep for 40 years. He shears most sheep on the Pender Islands and is a regular attraction at the Pender Island Fall Fair.

One market to explore is non-textile wool products, including felting around new trees, roadside reclamation and prevention of erosion, pelleted wool as a garden amendment, insulation, and wool booms to clean up oil spills.

Dr. Surber added that sheep should be promoted more as part of a multi-species improvement enterprise, given their role in controlling noxious weeds and reducing forest fire risk through grazing.

The course was supported by the BC Sheep Federation Sheep Industry Development Fund, Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers,  Canadian Sheep Federation, Inter Island Sheep Breeders Association, the Southern Gulf Islands Community Resource Centre, and the Pender Island Farmers’ Institute.

Many thanks to Charlene Thompson for organizing this event, to Karl for providing the venue, to Jodi and Austin for providing sheep, Karl, Jodi and Barb for set up and take down, and the sponsors who made this event possible.