DES MOINES - Quentin Ackerman, 16, waited for the start of his third year to compete in the open junior sheep shearing contest Saturday at the Iowa State Fair.
It was a three-person field with a youth from Indiana and another from Illinois all three from families of sheep shearers.
The contest is to shear three lambs and the winner is based on speed, technique of keeping the lamb comfortable and thoroughness of removing wool.
-Messenger photo by Larry Kershner
QUENIN ACKERMAN, 16, of Sac City, works under the watchful eye of a judge. Ackerman is near to finishing the first of three lambs in the open junior shearing contest Saturday at the Iowa State Fair. He finished second overall.
Ackerman finished the first lamb, but as the minutes wore on, the Indiana youth was finding his rhythm, while Ackerman's second lamb was proving difficult to hold still.
The back stiffens from bending over. The shearer has to concentrate on steady breathing or will tire more quickly. Wrists have to remain relaxed, while still running the electric clipper over the animal's contours.
"It's hard work," Ackerman said, who finished second to the Indiana contestant.
"I think it went well," he said, "better than I thought it would."
They were shearing Dorset-cross lambs, he said, "which has more wool on their legs and faces."
Ackerman's family raises 30 Suffolk-Hampshires on their rural Sac City farm.
He said his father taught him the first lessons of shearing when Quentin was 13.
"But for some reason it can be hard to teach your own kids things," Quentin Ackerman said. "That was my situation."
So his schooling was completed by master shearer Paul Hoffman, of Battle Creek.
Ackerman said he gets plenty of practice in shearing around his farm. When his mentor, Hoffman, retired, he took on some of those clients.
In 2014, Ackerman estimated, he cut about 600 lambs, mostly around the Ida Grove area.
A good shearer will say one is not considered "to have arrived" until they have 10,000 sheep under his or her belt.
Ackerman thinks he's about 20 percent along the way.
"If I ever get to 10,000," he said, "I might be pretty good."
He plans to compete later this month in Larchwood, and then in February 2015 at the National Western Stock Show in South Dakota.
After his high school years, Ackerman said he hopes to study to be a game warden.