Living on the lam(b)
RIFLE – Johnson Sheep Shearing, based in Cedaredge, travels all over the Northern Hemisphere with a team of nomadic sheep shearers from New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the United States.Carroll and Matt Johnson, a father-and-son team, own and operate the company. They shear about 80,000 sheep a year. More than 3,000 of those belong to local rancher Larry Robinson.The Johnsons and their crew were in Rifle last week, shearing Robinson’s sheep just north of town on Highway 13. “This is one of the bigger ones,” Matt Johnson said. “We shear for about 40 of the big sheep men in Colorado, Montana, Utah.”Matt said he has a lot of men and women from New Zealand and Australia on his crew. He said there are a lot of technical schools for sheep shearing in New Zealand.”It’s really seasonal work. We only have about three months here. That’s about what they have down there, too,” Matt said. “It’s very hard work and there aren’t enough shearers in the States.”When the crew is ahead of schedule, the members get to do fun things. Last year they visited the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and toured around the area. They also made it to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.This year they’re more than a week behind schedule.”We can’t work when it’s wet,” Johnson said. “We can’t take wet coats. But the time is nothing we can’t make up for.”The crew travels in a caravan of campers and lives on the sites where crew members work most of the time.The women in the group don’t shear. They separate the wool and sort it by color and quality.Shearing doesn’t hurt the sheep, except where the razor draws blood, Johnson said.”It’s like taking a big winter coat off,” Johnson said. “When they get out they’ll go find a post to scratch up against. It feels good.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller: 625-3245, ext. email@example.com
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