FRANKLINVILLE, N.C.— It’s difficult to think of a business or industry that hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, but one business that might not be the first to come to mind is the sheep shearing industry.

What You Need To Know

  • Sheep shearers are seeing an unexpected boom in business since the start of the pandemic

  • Shearers believe the uptick is coming from more people wanting to start their own homesteads

  • Shearing is a healthy habit for sheep, because the wool will not shed and will become heavier without regular shearings

“I think that the pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes,” said Chuck Costner, a sheep shearer from Stone Mountain. “When you started running out of meat, when you started running out of toilet paper and stuff like that people didn’t realize how reliant we are on a truck showing up at a store.”

Costner believes that realization has caused an uptick in people wanting to build their own homesteads, and raise their own animals that could be sources of food and other supplies.

Animals like sheep.

“You’ve got one animal you can get milk from, you get meat from, and you can get a fiber from,” Costner said. “And that fiber has stood the test of time, it’s as tough as anything you can make.”

Costner has been shearing sheep since 1984, when he was 15 years old. He has also been raising his own sheep to consume and sell since 1990.

He wants new sheep owners to also realize the importance of shearing them regularly.

“It won’t shed. It won’t go away. It just keeps getting worse and worse,” Costner said. “And you’ve got an animal after a while where the wool on its back weighs almost as much as the animal does.”

Leaders on the American Lamb Board said the industry lost almost half of all lamb sales at the start of the pandemic, when families stopped having holiday dinners and farmers lost their restaurant businesses.

But as other meats ran out at the grocery store, lamb became the only option in some cases, and now leaders are seeing more and more repeat customers.