Pre-lamb shearing is necessary in certain circumstances, but it must be carried out using best practice writes Federated Farmers spokesperson Simon Davies.

Pre-lamb shearing has its place in farming.

It is a necessary activity in certain situations and locations.

From a shearing industry point of view it is a necessity, as it allows shearing to be spread over almost 12 months of the year.


This gives continuity of work and spreads the workload so the job can be completed.

Currently the shearing industry is struggling to fill labour requirements. Therefore, if the shearing "season" was condensed, there is a very real possibility that not all sheep would get shorn.

Perhaps think winter shearing instead of pre-lamb.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

However, the practice of pre-lamb shearing has been raised as having the potential to cause both animal welfare concerns and health and safety concerns for shearers.

From an animal welfare point of view holding heavily pregnant ewes off feed for long periods of time to "empty" them can lead to all sorts of metabolic problems.

As a result there is a recommendation that ewes are not shorn within six weeks of lambing.

This allows the ewes to be stood off feed for long enough to be completely emptied out without causing significant metabolic problems.


Of course, the weather may not play its part and because of wool length shearing may have to take place closer to lambing, but the intention should be not to plan to shear within six weeks of lambing.

The concerns around shearer welfare are associated with shearing heavily pregnant and poorly "emptied "sheep.

In this situation, ewes can weigh up to 20kg heavier than at other times.

Worksafe has actual published a guide "Fasting of sheep prior to shearing" on practices around "emptying" sheep prior to shearing.

This guide is a good practical read, and should be read by all sheep farmers.

The guide indicates how long sheep need to "empty out", and the required time may surprise you.


As a rule of thumb, work on the half hour for every kg of live weight, or an 75kg sheep need to off feed (but not water) for about 37 hours.

If sheep are weaned and in good nick outside of pregnancy, then they should have two nights off feed.

The practice of pre-lamb shearing is necessary in certain circumstances.

However, it must be carried out using best practice to avoid both animal welfare and shearer safety concerns.