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Montana Ag: Grant helps keep art of sheep shearing alive - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Montana Ag: Grant helps keep art of sheep shearing alive

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According to Pete Cornell, some of the best wool in the world is made right here in Montana.

Some of that wool comes from Cornell's farm just outside of Loma.

His crew spent Thursday shearing almost 200 sheep starting early in the morning.

The wool collected at Cornell Farms will be stored until May and then shipped to Choteau to be weighed and core sampled.

After that, the wool is sent to Miles City and put up for bids.

However, in order to get the wool to Miles City, a skilled group of sheep shearers is required.

"The crew today is a pretty young group of whippersnappers," Cornell said.

But when shearing season isn't happening in Montana, it's happening elsewhere in the world.

Montana shearers have the opportunity to continue working on their skills during the offseason with the help of the American Sheep Shearer Development Partnership and Montana Wool Growers.

"Through the partnership, we are sponsoring guys that qualify to go to Australia and shear during our summer months, then they can come back here and shear with us hopefully or other contractors that are partnering with us in the program," Sheep shearer contractor Jake Kerr said.

Kerr added that the goal of the program is to help those who are dedicated to the art to better their work.

"Our goal is to try to get ten months of shearing for a young American shearer to be able to shear out of the year because he can develop his skill a lot faster," he said.

But according to Pete Cornell, even though the business is on the decline, it still puts clothes on their backs, literally.

"It's their livelihood for the shearing crew to come in and shear," he said. "Raising sheep is kind of a lost art but there's still very good money in the sheep business, not only in the lambs, but in the wool too."

For those already in the business, they said it's a very rewarding job.

"It's a really exciting industry to be in," Megan Kerr said.

According to a grant request form from the Montana Wool Growers, the program hopes to sponsor three new students each year.

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