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David Sparks Ph.d Sheep Shearing
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: November 08, 2017

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Travel magazine once stated that sheep, you may be surprised to learn, are not as dumb as they look. Some people might even describe them as shrewdly calculating, remarkably crafty animals with fierce independent streaks. Given the slightest opening, for example, they will quit a herd, striking out in small, enterprising bands for the high-desert plains — ungulate fugitives in a promised land of sagebrush and cactus — sometimes never to be seen again. Sheep have a long and storied history in Idaho. In 1918 the sheep population reached 2,650,000 head, almost 6 times the state's human population. It wasn't until the 1970 census, and after a large decline in the sheep industry along with an influx of new residents that human numbers finally exceeded sheep. Almost 100 years later at Soulen Livestock, father Phil and son Harry are doing what they have done every spring for almost a century. “We've got almost 4500 head here in Letha and we are in the second day of shearing. Today the crew should get through about 800 head.” Phil Soulen who is in his late 80s, is doing what he did as a youth. “At the age of 14 or 15 my dad put me to wrangling sheep for the shearing crew, So I know what I’m doing. In old age this is the best job for me.” Phil sorts and counts the ewes as they trail into the shear truck.

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