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UK Extension Agent comes to rescue for Cincinnati Zoo’s babydoll sheep long overdue for shearing

By Aimee Nielson
University of Kentucky

Sweet Pea and Snappy have been entertaining and educating Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden visitors for more than a decade, but it’s almost summer and summer is hot. These two English babydoll sheep were carrying a heavy load and overdue for a shearing.

UK Extension Agent Regina Utz shears Sweet Pea, an English babydoll sheep, with Cincinnati Zoo’s Remy Romaine

Mary Abbott, team leader for the Cincinnati Children’s Zoo, Red Pandas and Roo Valley, has worked at the zoo for more than 30 years. The team regularly lead the sheep around the zoo to meet visitors and teach them about wool. But she said finding someone to shear the sheep has been a challenge, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she and her staff resorted to shearing the sheep themselves.

“We are not experienced shearers and our curator suggested we contact the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service to see if we could find someone,” she said.

Through the extension connections, the zoo found Regina Utz, a Kentucky 4-H alumna and new Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Trimble County.

Utz grew up in 4-H showing sheep and rabbits as well as beef cattle, dairy cattle, ducks, goats and hogs. She was honored to travel to Cincinnati to help Sweet Pea and Snappy shed their thick, wool coats.

“These two sheep look like they will be super chill and I think they’ll be really easy,” Utz said prior to beginning the task. “Their wool is a little long, but with a little time, we’ll get it cleaned up and have no issues.”

Utz enlisted the help of her sister Renora Utz and Cincinnati Children’s Zoo staffer Remy Romaine. Regina Utz said most sheep need at least one haircut per year, possibly two.

Sweet Pea after her haircut. (Photo by Brian Volland, UK Agricultural Communications Specialist)

“We like to do it in early spring and then a little bit later in the middle of the summer,” Regina Utz said.

Abbott and her colleagues were happy to watch the transformation unfold.

“We are really excited to learn from Regina,” Abbott said. “She’s in there washing sheep right now and she’s blowing our mind because every sheep shearer we’ve worked with has said they have to be dry. So, Regina already is showing us something new. My whole team is here just to observe and ask questions. And we’re just really excited that we have this opportunity to work with (UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment) to help our sheep get haircuts this year.”

Abott said Sweet Pea and Snappy look amazing and will be able to continue being zoo ambassadors with a little more pep in their step.

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