Updated April 28, 2021
If you’re taking care of species bred for their fiber in a sanctuary environment, inevitably there will come a time when they will need shearing in order to keep them comfortable. Typically, a resident bred for their fiber will have to be shorn about once to twice a year, normally towards the beginning of the hot season. Choosing not to shear them will only saddle them with discomfort, increased heat sensitivity, and some health challenges like Pizzle End Rot and skin conditions due to ammonia buildup. It wasn’t their fault that they’ve been bred to make so much wool, and it’s now a human responsibility to keep them safe and comfortable.
When performed with care and a great deal of patience, shearing a resident should not be any more painful for them than a human getting a haircut, although they may have to be uncomfortably restrained due to their aversion of the loud shearing buzzer, especially as it nears their face. It is best to start building trust and introducing aspects of shearing before it is time to ease fears. It is possible to find shearers who are very mindful of the residents that they care for, even if they may have differing opinions on the value of a resident’s life than how a sanctuary might feel.
Sanctuary Approaches To Wool And Fiber Disposal
If you have fiber-producing residents at your sanctuary, you’re going to end up with a whole lot of it after a year! Each sanctuary has their own Philosophy of Care, ethical and philosophical principals that guide care decisions. You will find sanctuaries have different practices when choosing how to dispose of wool and fiber as well. Let us take a look at four ways different sanctuaries have chosen to handle wool and fiber.
Wool For Wildlife
Many different kinds of wild animals are experts at using the organic, biodegradable material for building comfortable nesting for themselves and their families. By giving the wool back to nature, some sanctuaries provide a new perspective to visitors about not valuing residents for what they can do for people, but treating them as complex individuals who deserve to exist for their own sake.
Recently, Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary performed shearing on their two resident Merino sheep, Finn and Teddy. The shearer they worked with remarked about how valuable their fine wool was to many humans. The sanctuary did not find it valuable in quite the same way. Ultimately, this sanctuary chose to put the wool out for wildlife as it aligned with their philosophy of care. Here is a sweet video of them below!
Compost: A Waste Management Solution
When many people think of compost, the idea of buying compost for gardens comes to mind. However, composting is simply a part of waste management plans for some sanctuaries, without the commodification of animal byproducts. In these cases, sanctuaries add wool and fiber along with used bedding and bodily waste into their compost pile in order to break down all the matter. If done properly, composting can reduce parasite and fly populations, limit offensive odors, and be spread onto pasture lands to help prevent becoming overwhelmed by waste on the sanctuaries property. You can learn more about composting at your sanctuary in our Composting 101: The Scoop On Poop resource.
Support Wildlife Rehabilitation
Other sanctuaries donate wool and fiber to wildlife rehabbers or wildlife rehabilitation centers for recovering individuals and release efforts. Much like how free wildlife can use the wool and fiber for nest building, so too can wool and fiber be offered to recovering captive wildlife to practice or learn the necessary skills they will need if they are to successfully live in their home, the wild. You might be surprised how many wild friends would use wool to build their nests. Recovering birds, raccoons, possums, mice, and other species in a rehabilitation program could use different bits of things to practice those skills!
Donate To Oil Spill Clean Up Efforts
A few sanctuaries decide to give the wool to organizations or people working to clean up an oil spill. Oil spills have a devastating impact at an ecological level, but also at the individual level, with many animals becoming ill or dying from the destructive pollution. Mats are made from the wool or fiber to soak up the oil devastating the environment.
This choice or others listed may not align with a sanctuaries philosophy of care. Hopefully, this gives you and your sanctuary team some options to think about which method of wool and fiber disposal aligns most with your own views and values!
Looking to share this information in an accessible way with other sanctuaries and supporters? Check out and share our infographic below!
What To Do With Wool by Amber D Barnes