Shearing shed design considerations guide

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Stock Journal Feature, August 2023

AWI have produced a guide which aims to outline some of the considerations that can be made when designing new or retrofitted shearing sheds. Covering end-to-end of the shearing shed, it is broken down into five topics: in-shed pens, shearing board, wool room, general design and construction and equipment.

In shed pens –  a range of pens are required for various functions including holding, forcing or filling and catching. Each pen should be designed to improve the efficiency and quality of work within the shearing shed. The area needed to store sheep will depend on three factors: number of stands,   month of shearing, and expected number of wet days. The Guide recommends that the shed space on the grating and under the wool room should be big enough for at least one to 1.5 day’s shearing without using catching pens, however in high rainfall areas this may need to be extended to 2 days. An understanding of animal behaviour will help when designing and using facilities. Pens should be designed to enable the shearer and shed hands to be in the best position when moving and handling stock, recognising the flight zone, field of vision and balance point of the sheep. Blinded panels can also help the flow of sheep, as sheep inquisitively look to move around corners and by reducing stress by not being able to see distractions through the panel.

Shearing board – the area within the shearing shed where sheep are shorn. The board has five components: the stand (the shearer’s workstation), the shearing machinery, catching pen access, shorn sheep let-go system, and a partition between the sheep pens and the stands. There are pros and cons for both raised and flat shearing boards and this ultimately comes down to personal choice.

Considerations for raised boards include:

  • shed hands do not need to bend down to pick up the fleece
  • shed hands can use the raised board as a table when checking bellies for stained wool
  • the board can be quickly and easily cleared at crutching time
  • shed hands cannot assist shearers with rams or difficult sheep
  • shed hands can only access the fleece from one side against the leading edge of the raised board
  • each shed hand will have different challenges with people of different heights, paddles can be a useful tool.

Considerations for working on a flat board:

  • need to bend over to prepare and retrieve fleeces
  • only one surface to keep clean compared to two work areas with a raised board
  • shed hands are not working at the same height as a moving animal and handpiece wool handlers have access around the fleece and shearer
  • shed hands are more able to participate in the clip preparation on a flat board (removing locks and crutchings during the shearing process)  

Wool room – the area in a shearing shed where wool handling occurs. While different processes may be followed, this usually includes: skirting, classing, storage in bins, pressing into bales, and storage of bales. There should be enough floor space in the wool room to allow for the placement of a wool table(s), wool bins and the wool press(es) to suit the design and throughput of the shed as well as unrestricted but not excessive movement of shed hands. Shed hands should not be required to walk further than necessary to move fleeces and maintain clean work areas. There should also be adequate floor space for the storage and organisation of bales. Free span, portable construction makes the wool room less congested and more versatile. Wool rooms can be constructed at both ground level and above ground. Other consideration includes wool bins, wool pack frames and wool tables – rectangular, round rotating and oval domed table, each with pros and cons.

General design and construction – considerations to the main shed structure, flooring, pens, gates, partition between the board and sheep pens, catching pen doors, lighting and ventilation are discussed in the Guide, providing valuable insight when considering retro fitting or design of a new shed.

Equipment – consideration should be given to the equipment provided in a shearing shed and this must be maintained to ensure it is in good working order when it is required. Required equipment can change for woolgrowers hiring a contracting team and sourcing their own shed labour as ‘cocky’ runs. Equipment includes the shearing machinery, grinders – which are typically now owned and maintained by shearers or contactors, wool presses and bale handling which should be checked, well maintained, and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Shed safety signage kits should be in all shearing sheds, they are also available from AWI to order at the cost of production visit

The AWI Shearing shed design considerations guide can be downloaded from