Best Shearing Handpiece and Combs and Cutters for Smallholders 2022

3 May 2022  |  Admin

Best Shearing Handpiece and Combs and Cutters for Smallholders 2022

What Shearing Handpiece, Combs and Cutters are Best for a Smallholder?


If you have a smaller flock of sheep, or a mixture of sheep and cattle – perhaps even alpaca of llama, you may be wondering what shearing handpiece is the best option for you?  It can be mind boggling to select the right handpiece and blades (or cutters and combs, as they are called when relating to shears).  It’s definitely an investment, and you want to know you’re getting something that will last and is the right tool for the job.


There are multiple elements to consider when setting up your shearing kit:


-              Power (battery, mains or shearing machine)

-              Handpiece

-              Drive (flexible or solid, pin or spline)

-              Cutters and combs


The kit a professional will use for shearing hundreds of sheep very quickly is different to the kit a small holder will select for tending to a small flock of sheep, some dirty cattle and perhaps a few camelids.  This is because, a pro has honed their technique and they need to go very fast.  The small holder, however, is unlikely to have the same technique and animal welfare, safety and durability becomes more of a consideration.



If shearing a lot of animals, most use a shearing machine that is run from either the mains or a generator.  For smaller jobs, there are some shears that run directly from the mains, some that run from 12-volt batteries and some completely cordless options (although the battery life currently limits these cordless shears).  Good shearing machine options include:


-              Lister Nova – A great value machine

-              Lister Nexus Sensor – with quick release option for extra speed and a 3 speed option



-              There are Flexible or Solid drives.  The Pros use the solid drive because it takes weight away from the handpiece and acts like an elbow and helps when shearing a lot of sheep.  Most other people choose the flexi drive, which does not demand such precise technique and is also better for crutching/tailing. 


-              There are Spline/Worm or Pin drives.  Pin drives lock-up and can be dangerous for those who are not experienced shearers. The Spline is the safer option.  If you hit anything in the fleece it will disengage without the handpiece locking up. Imagine a handpiece, still moving, flying at your arm?  You definitely want the safety of the Spline drive.



Handpieces are what you actually hold.  They need to be ergonomically design and smooth.


-              Lister Outback (twin bearing).  Great Value.  Needs shearing machine.

-              Lister Skorpion (triple bearing).  Very smooth.  Needs shearing machine.

-              Lister Fusion: this is run from the mains.  It’s a good option for people with a smaller flock.  You can also add a horse head (at extra cost) and use it as a heavy duty horse clipper.  No shearing machine required.



Cutters and Combs can fit on Lister or Heiniger shears – they are interchangeable.  A professional shearer will use different cutters and combs to the small holder.  This is because pros work at speed and need something that enters the fleece quickly.  However, the blades the pros use can be very sharp and deadly in the wrong hands!  What’s more, the pros choose thinner blades because speed is imperative but these thinner blades do not last as long.  A small holder will likely want a slightly thicker blade that can stand up to more grinding and will evidently last longer.


It is also important to select different cutters and combs depending upon the type of fleece you are dealing with, and the job at hand.  The guide below is based on British sheep.





-              Lister CC23


Shearing sheep 

- Lister Challenger FT (Full Thickness)

- Lister Challenger Elite (which is slightly thinner than the Challenger FT but still a good option for a Small Holder – it just won’t last as long)


Tailing sheep (like a bikini wax for sheep and essential for health and welfare of the animal): 

- Lister Countryman



Lister don’t currently have a comb for these but a countryman would do the job ok


CUTTERS (you typically want about 2 cutters for every comb)


All jobs above: 

- Lister Chaos Cutters




-              R30 Shear Oil.  Good quality oil is essential.

-              Moccasins – these make it easier for you to move.  They are optional.  Pros always use them.

-              Shearing vest.  Again, these are for comfort (a bit like a running top) and are optional. 

-              Shearing trousers and belt. The trousers are double lined at the front to stop the grease and lanolin going through to the shearers legs and cause boils.



Ultimate Small Holder Kit:

For smallholders, looking for a good quality, good value shearing kit that could handle a flock of sheep and some dirty cattle, the set-up below is a fantastic starter kit. Everything you need to shear except for the sheep!


Lister Nova Pack:

-              Nova 240

-              Outback handpiece

-              Flexible Spline Drive

-              Countryman Comb

-              Cavalier Comb

-              Chaos Cutter (realistically, you’ll need to add another couple of cutters)

-              R30 Oil 250ml

-              Comb, brush and scraper

-              Shearing Vest


If you have any questions about shearing, please don’t hesitate to ask.  We are a family run business and have a team of experts who can help you get the right kit and provide the advice you need to safely and cost effectively look after your livestock.  We are happy to help.

Please email


FarmCare UK

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