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Published April 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

Sheep shearing


Don Simonson, 87, shears 40 ewes in a day, with much of the day bent over and manhandling animals that weigh 150 to 200 pounds. He says his back muscles have built up over his 71 years in the business. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

  • Don Simonson, 87, shears 40 ewes in a day, with much of the day bent over and manhandling animals that weigh 150 to 200 pounds. He says his back muscles have built up over his 71 years in the business. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Don Simonson, 87, and his wife, Maureen, raised 10 children on his sheep shearing business. He started in 1940 and was spared being drafted for World War II by the Extension Service ag agent, who said Roberts County couldn't spare another sheep shearer. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Don Simonson, of Rosholt, S.D., circa 1940, when he started his sheep shearing business. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Flock owner Rodney Giese, of Donnelly, Minn. (right)  confers with sheep shearer Don Simonson of Rosholt, S.D., 87, as another ewe loses its winter coat. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • A ewe lies, docile, on the floor as Don Simonson of Rosholt, S.D., takes here fleece.. "It's like they give up," says one of the crew. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Unshorn ewes await their their annual haircut from Don Simonson and friends. Five generations of Gieses have lived on this farm, and the barn, built in 1956, is still a hub of activity. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Andy Emmert of Handcock, Minn., a son-in-law of sheep man Rod Giese, chats with sheep shearer Don Simonson during the process, March 27, at the Giese's Oak Ridge Farm near Donnelly, Minn. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Don Simonson of Rosholt, S.D., is in his 71st year of professional sheep shearing, and continues at age 87, despite losing some of his vision. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • The sheep shearing "handpiece" gets within an eighth of an inch of the hide of the sheep, removing 7 to 10 pounds of wool per ewe. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Jason Madsen of Rosholt, S.D., is a great-grandson to the second customer Don Simonson ever had back in the 1940. Madsen, who milks 150 cows, learned shearing from Simonson and does the work as a sideline. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Don Simonson of Rosholt, S.D., very seldom nicks the sheep he sheers, despite losing some of his sight to macular degeneration. He takes the work about a third less than his partners, but says he's happy with the success of people he's helped to teach the craft: "I'm glad!" (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Joe Reinart of Beardsley, Minn., a full-time well driller, but been shearing sheep for about 20 years. He sometimes teams up with Don Simonson of Rosholt, S.D. Unlike Simonson, Reinart employs the "Australian method." (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Sheep stand on the "shorn" end of the barn, each about 8 pounds lighter from the process at the Giese family's Oak Ridge farm near Donnelly, Minn. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Erik Giese, the fourth among five generations in his family to live on Oak Ridge Farm in rural Donnelly, Minn., runs the wool bagger while family members look on. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Erik Giese (left) sews up a wool sack that holds about 20 sheep pelts while his father, Rodney, uses a machine to pack another bag. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Adam Audette of Minneapolis, a son-in-law to sheep farmer Rodney Giese of Donnelly, Minn., packs some of the lesser-quality "black-face" sheep wool using “upright” wool bagger, the old-fashioned way. Workers have to stand in the bag and pack the wool. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Erik Giese and brother-in-law Adam Audette of Minneapolis, load wool bags on a flatbed at the Gieses' Oak Ridge Farm near Donnelly, Minn., March 27. Each bag runs about 150 to 200 pounds, depending on the sheep breed. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Jason Madsen, a local dairyman and sometime shearing companion, helps Don Simonson load wool bags for sorting in Simonson's warehouse near Rosholt, S.D. Madsen's great-grandfather Paully was Simonson's second customer back in 1940. With about 35,000 pounds of wool in the warehouse, it’ll get picked up by an Illinois company. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)
  • Wool is sorted into higher and lower grades. White-faced sheep generally produce higher-quality wool, compared to the black-faced sheep. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)