Marie Prebble: 'It is good to be improving my shearing with an eye on my more experienced colleagues'


At the time of writing I have been in New Zealand for three weeks. I have sheared about 1,600 sheep in quite a few half days, because, believe it or not, there has been more rain here than at home.


Despite the abundance of woolsheds rain can still stop play, as a whole day of sun is needed to dry the full-wool ewes out so the night pen can be loaded, to empty out the sheep in preparation for shearing the next day.


I have already learnt quite a bit about gear, specifically which combs to use on which type of sheep, and it is good to be improving my shearing with a watchful eye on my more experienced colleagues.


Most of the ewes I have sheared so far have been recently weaned, some showing it on their backs more than others, which has some bearing on my tallies as I am still getting my hand in, unlike some of the other shearers who will reliably shear at least 60 every two-hour run, no matter how good the sheep.


I have been loaned the classic Kiwi shearing gear bucket to sit on at ‘smoko’ (tea break) and borrowed some grinding plates so I can be pretty self-reliant. The shearing days will be full in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year now the weather resembles more what I had imagined it to be.


When I get chance I try and find out a bit about the farm, the type of ground and the system the sheep are run on and I am hoping to find time for a few farm tours before I leave.


The farmer is very often only briefly seen at the beginning and the end of a day as the shearing gang provides all the necessary labour of ‘sheepo’ (to fill the pens), woolhandlers and a presser.


Unlike at home, the fleeces get graded on a table with fribs, bellies, pieces, necks and skirted fleece wool ending up separately pressed into wool ‘bales’.


Most sheep are Romneys, or Perendales (a stabilised breed of Cheviot/Romney crosses), although I did shear one shed of Suffolk sheep for a change of scene, whose bare bellies, heads and legs did nothing to compensate for their appalling bad-temper on this occasion.


Wishing you all the very best for a successful farming year. Seasons bleatings indeed.

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