This year, we’re celebrating the 150th Anniversary of shearing sheep in Montana. The first bands of sheep brought to Montana arrived in 1869, miraculously, to the exact same valley on Carter Creek where the Helle Ranch is located today.
Shear ‘N Shred is an annual event where Duckworth invites key partners to the ranch to get hands on with wool and then takes them skiing at the local hill, Maverick Mountain. As a source verified wool company, we think it’s important for everyone involved to see the shearing process for themselves.
This is an opportunity to learn about the process of harvesting wool, the partnership between the ranch and the Duckworth brand, and why this story is so unique. The ranch is rich with history and cute animals, and this event provides the perfect opportunity for media outlets to experience the Duckworth brand from sheep to shelf.
Throughout the week, about 1,500 sheep are shorn, averaging 500 per day. We take great care in shearing our sheep, making sure they are comfortable throughout the whole process. Each fleece is carefully measured by an Optical Fiber Diameter Analyzer and matched back to the individual sheep via an electronic ear tag. This computer helps us determine which fleeces are best suited for different Duckworth products. The fleece’s data is also logged into our genetic database to help us make informed breeding decisions in the fall.
Behind the spotlight of the shearing floor, the sheepherders, along with their trusty border collies, move the sheep in and out of the barns and push them up the corral to the shearing floor. The dogs love working the sheep and make it so much easier for the sheepherders.
After shearing, the ewes will go back out on pasture until they are ready to start lambing. To help protect them from the cold, we use specific combs on our shears that leave about ¼ inch of wool on the sheep. Within 24 hours their skin will double in thickness and after 48 hours it will be four times thicker than it was before shearing. We increase the amount of feed we give them after shearing to help keep them healthy. In just a few weeks these ewes will start lambing.
The concept of Duckworth was born on the ski lift. In honoring our heritage, we wrap up a hard week’s work with a day of skiing at Maverick Mountain and apres at the local hot springs. Everyone at Duckworth is an avid outdoorsman. In Montana, this usually includes skiing. Skiing completes the story for Shear & Shred guests by following the wool from Sheep to Shelf, wearing our base layers on the ski hill.