Old Shearing Shed near Jerilderie NSW along the Newell Highway

In the early days of sheep farming in Australia, shearing was done out in the open, with sheep being shorn on the ground or on a simple platform. These early shearing methods were labour-intensive and often resulted in injury to both the sheep and the shearers. It was also difficult to control the environment where the shearing took place, which could lead to issues such as heat stress for the sheep and dust and debris in the air for the shearers. It would evoke the visions of poetry lines such as I love a sunburnt country and click go the shears boy.

Sheep shearing is an essential aspect of the Australian agricultural industry, with millions of sheep being shorn every year to produce wool for clothing and other products. The process of shearing has changed significantly over the years, and so too have the sheds in which it takes place. In this blog post, we will explore the evolution of sheep shearing sheds in Australia, from the early days of open-air shearing to the modern, technologically advanced sheds of today.

The remains of an old sheep shearing pen in outback Queensland

As the Australian sheep industry grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so did the need for more efficient and effective shearing methods. In the 1850s, the first shearing sheds were built, providing a covered area where sheep could be shorn. These early sheds were simple structures, often made of bush timber, with a sloping corrugated iron roof to allow for natural ventilation. The shearing platform was still at ground level, and the sheep were held in pens around the shed’s perimeter.

under the roof of an old shearing shed with open walls and low platforms.

In the early 1900s, the first mechanical shearing machines were introduced, which greatly increased the speed and efficiency of the shearing process. These machines were powered by steam or electricity, allowing shearers to shear many more sheep in a shorter amount of time. To accommodate these machines, sheds were designed with higher ceilings and larger, more open spaces. The shearing platform was also raised to a comfortable height for the shearers, making it easier for them to access the sheep and reducing the risk of injury.

Early Mechanissed Shearing Shed in Australia

As technology on farms continued to advance, so too did the design of sheep shearing sheds. In the mid-20th century, sheds began to be built with steel frames and more complex corrugated iron roofs as steel became cheaper and straighter than bush timber. The use of rollers and conveyors also became more common, allowing sheep to be moved around the shed more easily and reducing the need for manual labour. Additionally, the use of electricity and motor-driven machines allowed for the use of fans and other ventilation systems, which helped to keep the shed cool and reduce the risk of heat stress for the sheep and much greater comfort for the shearers.

Labour saving Rollers inside a shearing shed

In recent years, the further development of new technologies has led to even more advanced sheep shearing sheds. Many modern sheds are now built with computerized systems that help control the environment, including temperature, humidity, ventilation and lighting. The use of robots and other automation technology is also becoming more common, which can greatly reduce the need for manual labour and increase the efficiency of the shearing process.

One of the most significant recent advancements in sheep shearing shed design has been the use of energy-efficient systems. These systems include solar panels, which can provide power for lighting and ventilation, and rainwater harvesting systems, which can supply the shed with water. These systems not only help to reduce the cost of operating the shed, but they also help to reduce the environmental impact of sheep farming.

The evolution of sheep shearing sheds in Australia has been a gradual process, with each advancement building upon the previous one. From the early days of open-air shearing to the modern, technologically advanced sheds of today, the design of sheep shearing sheds has been shaped by the need for increased efficiency, safety, and comfort for both the sheep, the Boss of the Board, the Ringer, the Snagger and of course, the Tar boy.

A final word on the design of shearing sheds.

A well-designed shed can greatly assist with the shearing of sheep on farms in Australia by providing a safe and efficient environment for the process. The shed should have ample space for the sheep to be held and moved around in, as well as a shearing platform that is at a comfortable height for the shearers. Adequate lighting and ventilation should also be included to ensure the sheep’s and the shearers’ comfort. Additionally, the shed should be designed with safety in mind, with features such as non-slip flooring and barriers to prevent the sheep from escaping. Overall, a well-designed shed can help to make the shearing process smoother and more efficient while also ensuring the safety and well-being of both the sheep and the shearers.

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