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Sheep handling and shearing

Information about sheep handling and shearing including mulesing, jetting, dipping and drenching, mustering, lifting sheep, diseases from animals and shearing.

General information

  • Build yards on sloping ground for better drainage and of a design that will encourage sheep to work freely.
  • Build protective coverings over working and drafting races.
  • Avoid slippery surfaces in races and forcing yards and keep dust levels to a minimum.
  • Observe recommended withholding periods for drugs or chemicals before stock are slaughtered.
  • Ensure the brakes and suspensions on motorcycles are regularly maintained.
  • Wear a helmet and appropriate protective equipment and clothing that protect arms, legs and feet when riding motorcycles.
  • Treat rams with caution as they can be very aggressive.
  • When working rams in a race ensure you are protected from those behind you. A well positioned drop gate is useful to reduce the hazard.

Lamb marking and mulesing

  • Hold lambs firmly when held by hand.
  • Use a cradle where possible.
  • Catchers should wear protective gloves.
  • Work out a system along the cradles so that operators are not in danger of being cut, sprayed with chemicals or jabbed with a needle.
  • Sterilise all knives, shears and ear pliers and ensure operators observe hygiene practices.

Jetting, dipping and drenching

  • Choose the most efficient chemical for the job and the least harmful to humans. Always wear protective clothing, goggles and breathing equipment where specified.
  • Use positive air supply hoods. If headaches or any other discomfort are suffered after handling chemicals seek medical advice and have appropriate tests done. Avoid using these chemicals if possible in future.
  • Ensure correct mixing rates are used.
  • Keep equipment well maintained and check regularly to avoid leakage of chemicals.
  • Do the work in the shade to reduce risk of heat stress.


  • Plan the muster as sheep movement is affected by wind direction and location of water.
  • Allow plenty of time and do not rush the stock.
  • Use dogs to control the mob.

Lifting sheep

  • If possible have two people to lift sheep.
  • When lifting alone, sit the sheep on its rump, squat down, take a firm hold of its back legs while keeping the sheep's head up to restrict movement. Pull the animal firmly against the body and lift using your legs not your back.
  • If lifting the sheep over a fence do not attempt to drag, work from the same side as the animal.
  • Put a drafting gate at the end of the handling race to save lifting. It is advisable to have several positions for 'drop gates' in the race to hold sheep that are to be drafted off.

More information on manual handling.

Diseases from animals

Animals carry diseases that are transferable to humans, sometimes referred to as zoonotic diseases. Be familiar with the symptoms so that you can determine if these diseases exist in the flock.


General information

  • Ensure all entrances to shearing sheds and accommodation are safe.
  • Ensure suitable and functional fire fighting equipment is available in sheds and quarters.

Shearing and crutching

  • Ensure floors in catching pens are kept dry where possible to avoid becoming slippery.
  • Tripping on wire, nails or loose grating may cause back injuries from falling backwards onto the board or in the catching pens. Ensure the grating is clear, securely nailed down and free from obstruction.
  • Allow sheep to empty out in the holding yard before moving into shed.
  • Ensure sheds are well-lit and ventilated.
  • Keep shed hands off the board and clear of shearers, unless they are needed for assistance. The board must be kept clean and dry at all times.
  • Get assistance when stacking or loading bales.
  • Ensure that belt drives and grinders are properly guarded.
  • Dogs should be kept clear of the work area when not being used. Do not tie dogs in a position where workers could trip over the dog or its leash.
  • If electricity is available, have electric motors fitted to the wool press to reduce air and noise pollution.
  • Avoid back injuries by maintaining good posture and using your legs instead of your back.