It is going be a month of records being smashed in the UK as two Welsh shearers follow hot on the toes of Matt Smith’s world shearing record to set the first Nine Hour Two Stand British Lamb Shearing Record later this month. Aly Balsom reports.
Two Welsh champion shearers at the top of their game will be working in tandem to set a new British record for the number of lambs sheared in nine hours later this month.
Shearing duo, Ian Jones, 36, and Gareth Daniel, 33, will be attempting to set the new British record at Llysfasi Agricultural College in Ruthin on Friday, August 19.
The pair are no strangers to competitive shearing with four Champion Shearer of Wales titles between them.
Having secured the title for the first time at last month’s Royal Welsh Show, Ian will be surfing the crest of a wave as he puts his skills up against the clock as part of the record attempt.
For Ian, the Welsh championship title was a culmination of 16 years of hard work.
He says: “My dream when I started shearing was to make the Welsh final and I made the first one when I was 21.
"And then once I made one, my dream changed and I wanted to win. I made 15 finals, and held every position. This year, it was finally my turn to win.”
Setting a shearing record is another life aim for both himself and Gareth. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he adds.
“I wanted to do it five or six years ago, but my father died. I decided last Christmas I would do it – it will be the only record I’ll do.”
The Nine Hour Two Stand British Lamb Shearing Record will be the second record to be set in Britain in a month following Cornwall sheep farmer Matt Smith’s epic nine-hour strong wool ewe world shearing record in July.
The event saw him smash the existing record of 721 ewes by shearing 731 head, the physical equivalent of running three back to back marathons.
"I think it improves your shearing as a whole to go to competitions. It makes you go gaster and shear tidier."
- Ian Jones
Ian runs a flock of predominantly Beulah Speckled Face sheep and Charolais and Limousin store cattle at Hundred House, near Builth Wells, and does contract shearing work with two others.
His shearing career began at the age of 16, supported by his late father Adrian and two uncles Robin Lloyd and Steve Meridith. Robin was his main shearing mentor.
“He had his own business and I sheared for him every day,” says Ian, who has also completed a number of British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) courses.
“He made a few Welsh finals back in the day but gave up when I was 20 and I took over his run.”
Shortly after taking over the business, he had his first trip to New Zealand where he developed his skills in the middle of North Island.
When he returned, he was shearing an average 40-50 more sheep a day. Following his win at the Royal Welsh Show, he’ll be heading back to New Zealand with the Welsh team in February 2017 to compete in the World Shearing Championships.
Fellow shearer Gareth, also developed his skills following several stints in New Zealand and thanks to training from his cousin and brother-in-law.
Having started shearing age 20, he now has his own shearing run. This includes 10,000 sheep in Hampshire in May, with the help of two others. He and one other also shear more than 20,000 sheep a year within a one-hour radius of the home farm in Penegoes, Machynlleth.
“I always wanted to shear,” says Gareth. “I did carpentry at school and did three years at college as an apprentice before I went shearing.”
His time is now split between running the family sheep and beef farm with his father Alun, shearing and winter carpentry work.
Over the last 12 years, he has been to New Zealand numerous times to gain experience with shearers and also competed several times in the World Championships as part of the Welsh team.
In the run up to the record attempt, both Gareth and Ian have been training hard, using the competition circuit and shearing season to hone their skills.
Gareth says he is optimistic things would go well on the record day. “I’m feeling quite fit. It’s two weeks so a lot can change, but I feel ready.”
Ian echoes the sentiment and says it will be great to finally attempt a record: “You can’t predict what will happen, but we should do a fair number. I’d like to do 650-700 (lambs) or around there on the day.”
During the record attempt, Ian says his biggest challenge will be concentration as his mind can wander when he starts to shear.
“But I do have a good support man who will keep him on the straight and narrow,” he laughs.
Ian and Gareth are both used to competing with and against each other on the competition circuit and no doubt their competitive spirit will help push them on as they set the record.
Ian adds: “We’re good friends and I’ll hold my hands up and say he’s better than me. He’s beat me more than I’ve beat him.”
Ian admits taking the shearing platform gives him a real buzz, but also helps develop his skills.
“I think it improves your shearing as a whole to go to competitions. It makes you go faster and shear tidier,” he explains.
He also continues to draw on the advice of his uncles and father. “The main lessons were the need to listen and keep listening as long as you can. And keep doing what they’re saying and don’t go back to bad habits.”
The shearing duo will be cheered on by their families on the day of the record attempt.
With Ian’s third child due the week before the event, he’ll be keeping everything crossed the baby doesn’t choose to make an appearance on the day.
Gareth’s fiancé, Nia Lloyd, and his daughters Cari, five, and Llio, 18 months, will also be watching.
Gareth says their support and understanding have been vital over the season.
“They’ve been really good as I’ve been working hard and I’ve not been around a lot,” he says.
The Nine Hour Two Stand British Lamb Shearing Record is supported by the BWMB and chairman Ian Buchanan says record attempts such as Gareth and Ian’s are hugely important to the wool industry.
He says: “Not only do they highlight the highly skilled individuals that are driving the industry forward, they also help promote the quality of British wool to a wider audience.”
Bedwyr Jones, BWMB Welsh Northern Board member, adds: “These record attempts provide an excellent opportunity for up and coming young shearers to watch and meet with highly skilled individuals who are passionate about both the sheep they shear and the wool industry as a whole.
“I would like to wish both Gareth and Ian the best of luck with their joint record attempt.”