You may or may not know that there are more sheep in New Zealand than humans. The ratio of sheep to humans is 9:1 in New Zealand. New Zealand has 34.2 million sheep and 6.2 million cows. Kiwis love their sheep–everywhere you look you see a pasture overflowing with sheep. You can’t come to New Zealand and not visit the Agrodome in Rotorua, on the North Island.
We got to the Agrodome and purchased our tickets. I didn’t know what to expect from the whole thing. A sheep show sounded pretty boring. We walked in a barn-like auditorium, with wooden benches in rows like an old church. As we made our way to the front, I noticed an empty stage with large steps, each with a name of some sort on the front. Soon the auditorium filled up and it was time for the show!
A cowboy named Karl John and a girl walked in the room. Karl gave an intro speech and in came the sheep! On each step a sheep was placed. The name in front was the type of sheep each one was. The biggest and most valuable was the Merino. With its white, soft, grade A wool, his wool sells for $2.60-$4.15 a kilogram. The underside of each sheep had grade B wool, selling for only 40-60 cents a kilogram. The difference between grade A and B is the quality. Grade A has less thorns in it, unlike B. Grade B wool is on the stomach, so more grass, dirt, and thorns get in it.
Different types of sheep give wool for different uses. Some sheep’s wool is used for carpet, others for boots, others for blankets, and another for fine clothing (the Merino). In fact, sheep’s wool was even used to make wigs in colonial times.
The time came and five volunteers were asked to come milk a cow. I had milked a cow a long time ago, but I still volunteered and was chosen. I walked up to the stage with four other volunteers, and the cowboy asked me to go first.
“Where are you from?” he asked before I started the job.
“Alabama, USA,” I replied.
“Okay, then. Well squat down beside the cow and we’ll get started.”
I squatted and grimaced at the cow’s utters. I went ahead and milked it a couple times, then wiped off my hands. I was presented with a ‘certificate of utterance’ and hopped back to my seat. The other people took their turns, and we finished with only a couple of spoonfuls of milk.
Then came the shearing.
With the stage to himself, the sheep-shearer opened a wooden door and out ran a sheep. He swiftly grabbed the sheep and propped it up awkwardly. The sheep was sitting on its bottom in between the guy’s legs, wiggling and trying to escape the humiliation. The shearer grabbed the razor and shaved the sheep, giving facts in the meantime.
“The average shearer makes $1.80 for each sheep he shears, and most can shear 280-350 sheep a day. The record number of sheep sheared in a nine hour day is 723. The record time for shearing one sheep is 14.2 seconds.” Before we knew it, he finished the shearing.
The show ended and we took pictures with the sheep on the stage. After the show we went outside to watch his non-barking sheepdog herd sheep. Using just his body and eyes, the dog herded the sheep into a pen.
So, at first, I thought a visit to a sheep show would be boring. It actually was really fun, and I definitely recommend it.