Foley builds successful business
Kaycee – Jayson Foley began shearing sheep at age 16 and never looked back. His experience as a shearer helped him gain the skills and knowledge needed to start a sheep operation of his own.
Jayson and his wife Kelsey raise sheep and goats, while also operating their own shearing business where they shear goats, sheep and alpacas for customers around the U.S.
“This will be the first year we are strictly doing our own business and running our own livestock operation,” he adds.
Becoming a shearer
Jayson’s family taught him how to shear sheep on their operation, Foley Sheep Shearing.
“To become a good shearer, you kind of have to do it day in and day out,” says Jayson. “It’s not something you’re going to learn overnight. It was three years of pushing myself every day.”
He refers to shearing as a physically demanding job.
“It can be hard on the body. Sheep are getting a lot bigger than they used to be, so it takes a toll at some point,” he notes.
Not only is shearing physically demanding, the job requires time commitment as well.
“When you commit to a contractor, you sacrifice time at home,” says Jayson. “You’re tied to the business seven days a week, and you may have to sacrifice missing events at home, especially when traveling overseas.”
Although shearing can be a challenging occupation, he finds the rewards overcome the sacrifices.
“It’s rewarding reaching goals I set for myself and achieving accomplishments in the production world,” Jayson says.
Jayson began traveling to New Zealand after graduating college, where he worked to fine-tune his shearing skills.
“I found good connections all over while traveling,” he says.
Jayson was able to gain knowledge from farming operations and observe different marketing techniques in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“Everywhere I traveled, I spoke with farmers and learned about the different farming systems Americans don’t use,” he says. “This was pretty neat to see, and I was able to take these ideas with me and bring them back home.”
Jayson has always wanted to start a sheep operation of his own, and starting the sheep operation has been one of his biggest achievements.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to have the opportunity to raise my own sheep and goats,” he says. “My wife and I are pretty excited about starting this operation up.”
Jayson mainly stays within the U.S. now, shearing in states ranging from Washington to Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming.
“I mainly traveled overseas for eight years to put myself in the position to be able to buy a farm and run an operation,” he shares. “We have more of a production type of livelihood now, rather than shearing.”
Jayson mentions the typical shearing workday varies a bit depending on if he’s working for a contractor or organizing the jobs himself.
“When I’m working for a bigger contractor, I am told every night where we are going the next day,” he says. “We typically show up at 7:30 a.m. and shear for an eight-hour day, depending on the number of sheep.”
When organizing the jobs himself, he will typically locate five jobs in one geographical area so he can efficiently serve his customers.
“Every job can be different, some may have five head of sheep and some may have 20,” Jayson says. He mentions his customers have various needs for shearing, including spinning and 4-H lambs.
No matter what the job looks like, Jayson and his crew hold themselves to high standards and ensure high-quality shearing for their customers.
“We try to shear as many animals as we can and be as efficient as possible, while still ensuring the sheep look good,” he says.
Jayson often times helps train new shearers looking for work and is pleased to see there are more opportunities for young shearers in the U.S.
“In the fall, we usually have five people shearing – I’ve trained some and found others through networking,” he adds. “At some point, I wouldn’t mind doing some sort of school to see if people would be interested in learning how to shear.”
Jayson encourages young shearers and livestock operators to work hard and persevere through any challenges, assuring there will be plenty tough times along the way.
“It’s definitely not an easy industry to get going in,” Jayson says. “It gets to be tough keeping up with expenses but keep moving forward and looking at every opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.