Contact Sheet: Marcus Irrthum ’19

By Teresa Scalzo | Photographs by Michael Dvorak

Marcus Irrthum ’19Marcus Irrthum ’19 Photo: Michael Dvorak

Marcus Irrthum has three requirements for his dream job: the work has to be physically strenuous, on the farm, and with animals.

Irrthum ’19 grew up on his parents’ dairy farm 27 miles southeast of Northfield in Wanamingo, Minnesota. Following his graduation from Carleton, the economics major was eager to return to the farm to help his dad “deal with market volatility.” He diversified the dairy operation by adding 55 alpacas and 30 goats (the goat herd now numbers close to 90). After hiring someone to shear his alpacas the first year, Irrthum decided to learn the skills required to shear his own animals.

In November 2019 he attended a three-day sheep-shearing clinic and that, he says, “was the start of my journey.” Since June 2021, Irrthum has worked with national championship shearer Alex Moser at Shepherd’s Sheep Shearing Service. The pair practice their trade throughout the Western and Midwestern United States.

Shearing doesn’t hurt the sheep. In fact, it improves their health, says Irrthum. Removing several inches of yearly wool growth reduces the animals’ chances of contracting pneumonia (any hiker will tell you that wool traps moisture), it keeps them cooler in the summer, and it increases their appetite. Irrthum can shear an adult sheep in two to five minutes, though the world record is 37.9 seconds (set in Ireland in 2016). He shears a lamb a minute, which is good because shearers are paid per sheep.

Do the sheep mind? “They’re just getting a haircut,” says Irrthum. “They might get a little stressed out at first because they spend 364 days in the pasture and they don’t have a ton of human interaction other than getting vaccinations and health checks, and suddenly they’re getting handled. But they’re literally in my hands for minutes, and they’re usually really calm. Lambs can be more hyper. They’re just like little kids.”

Add a comment

The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)