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Beyond the Bale : September 2017
AWI held a shearing industry day in June to help prioritise AWI’s investment in wool harvesting innovation, with the aim of greater efficiencies for woolgrowers and the wider industry. While the traditional method of shearing continues to serve the industry, over the years many alternatives to harvesting wool have been invested in, such as upright posture shearing platforms (UPSPs). The Wool Harvesting Innovation Workshop, held in Dubbo, examined the latest knowledge and innovation around the current technologies and asked the vital question of “what next?” Woolgrowers, shearing contractors and trainers, UPSP manufacturers and wool brokers discussed current shearing alternatives such as UPSPs alongside related issues such as shearing shed design, workplace health and safety, human resources, retro-fitting woolsheds and mobile shearing technology. “AWI funds the in-shed training of shearers and woolhandlers to try to make the process as efficient as possible,” AWI shearing industry development manager Jim Murray said. “But with the advent of the digital age we need to keep looking for new opportunities to make this monumental task easier for both shearer, sheep and woolgrower – and this is what the workshop discussed." The day started with Bill Byrne of Peak Hill Industries presenting the current ShearEzy UPSP. Bill has been working on machinery for the sheep and wool industry since the 1990s and has worked on various UPSP developments. He said an experienced operator can shear 200 plus head per day using the ShearEzy. Woolgrower Grant Burbidge, who has been exploring alternative wool harvesting ideas for the past seven years, presented (with a video) an alternative upright wool harvesting model – based on the Andrew Wytkin (WA) system developed and operated in the 1980s. Jim Murray then provided the workshop with an update on Bioclip. It is now 100% owned by Heiniger, which is currently looking at opportunities with potential for a commercial product to be available in the near future. Heiniger is also working on innovation with existing and new handpiece technology. There was then an open discussion led by Jim on shearing shed design, with a focus also on what to consider when building or retro-fitting wool sheds for UPSPs or other technologies. Videos of woolgrowers discussing their new shed designs were shown: Rupert McLaren of ‘Glenmore’ (featured on page 61 of this edition of Beyond the Bale) and Magnus Aitkin of ‘Steam Plains’ (featured on page 34 of the December 2012 edition of Beyond the Bale). Jim Murray also presented on 'Shear Jitsu', a way that shearers can prevent injury and increase the longevity of their careers. A video was shown featuring Pera Davies who developed the ‘Stand and Deliver - Shear-Jitsu’ technique (featured on page 48 of the June 2017 edition of Beyond the Bale). Paul Oster and Shannon Warnest presented to the workshop various perspectives as shearer trainers, shearing contractors and woolgrowers. They highlighted catch and drag/release as major issues and noted that shearing patterns are continually being improved and reviewed. The workshop participants then broke into groups to discuss: the challenges and opportunities of blue sky/long-term innovation; alternatives to conventional wool harvesting; training and retention; and shed design and retro-fitting. LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Jim Murray said the workshop helped create a better understanding of the lack of widespread adoption of innovation in wool harvesting methods and the associated barriers, but also noted that there are opportunities for the industry. “The workshop has helped increase industry awareness, communication and motivation for the need to innovate and improve wool harvesting methods,” he said. “In the short term, AWI will continue to invest in shearer and woolhandler training – both conventional and upright, and other methods if they emerge. AWI will also work on providing ‘best practice shed construction’ guidance, which includes independent assessments and considers OH&S and efficiency issues. “In the medium term, there needs to be further investigation into mobile shearing and its application; establishment of a strategy for further development, training and adoption of UPSP systems; and support for ongoing research into alternatives to the hand piece and catch and drag. “However, in the long term, it is important to look beyond the industry for solutions, such as robotics technology, and encourage lateral thinking towards wool harvesting.” There has already been progress since the workshop, with AWI jointly-funding the first UPSP school last month in Tarcutta, NSW, in conjunction with the Burbidge Wool Harvesting System. WOOL HARVESTING INNOVATION WORKSHOP The ShearEzy upright posture shearing platform from Peak Hill Industries in action. 56 ON FARM
In the Shops - September 2017