CANBY - Amber Nuytten patiently showed her daughter Grace, 11, how to use the big hand clippers to block her sheep for showing at the Yellow Medicine County Fair on Friday. That is, to shear the wool short, but not as short as if she were shearing for the wool.
"I like sheep because after you train them, they're nicer than they were," Grace Nuytten said.
Her mother, Amber Nuytten, said this was Grace's third year of showing sheep.
Photo by Steve Browne
Amber Nuytten, right, teaches her daughter Grace, 11, to shear her sheep prior to showing at the Yellow Medicine County Fair on Friday.
"I grew up in 4-H showing sheep," Amber Nuytten said. "Once you train them they like being around people."
Grace Nuytten came by her love of sheep honestly. Her father Jerry was a sheep man and made a major part of his living shearing sheep professionally for about 13 years, a skill he perfected in New Zealand during three trips in several years.
So how do you get a job in New Zealand, where good shearers might shear 300 to 600 sheep a day?
"Mostly word-of-mouth," Jerry Nuytten said. "You go to shearing school and get a recommendation from the instructor. They need men who can shear 300 a day but they'll take less than that starting out."
In the United States, Jerry Nuytten would travel around to farms within a three- to four-hour drive during shearing season, sometimes alone, sometimes with a crew depending on how many sheep there were. Along the way he met Amber, but not through the sheep business.
"We always say we should have met through the business," Amber Nuytten said with a laugh. "But we met on eHarmony. The funny thing is, my brother's best friend actually worked for him as a sheep shearer for a while."
The Nuyttens run a dairy farm near Hazel Run these days, but they still keep a few sheep.
"It's not the focus of the farm, but the business remains alive," Jerry Nuytten said.