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Beyond the Bale : February 2010
February 2010 BEYOND THE BALE 22 WOOL PRODUCTION One day, eight-year-old John Dalla had had enough of sitting watching the shearers on the family farm on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula. He thought he would have a go. By day's end the youngster's tally was three sheep and there was no stopping him. By the age of 13 he'd also discovered the challenge of blade shearing, practising on his parents' -- Dennis and Heather's -- Orrie Cowie stud rams. Through high school, he worked in sheds during school holidays and entered his first shearing competition in 2005, while still in his teens. By this time John had decided that shearing -- blade and mechanical -- was the perfect life and career, especially having discovered that competition shearing could be a ticket to the world. Last year, he retained the Australian blade-shearing title at the National Shearing and Wool Handling titles, which he first won in 2008, aged 19. Winning that title put him into the Australian Shearing and Wool Handling Team that competed at the Golden Shears World Championships in Norway, where he finished eighth in the individual blade shearing. Today, John is trying to make the most of both worlds -- blade and mechanical shearing -- and is working between Australia and New Zealand to improve his skills and income. The majority of the blade-shearing work is in New Zealand, where for four months of the year teams work in the high country of the South Island, where flock sheep are shorn with blades to leave a fleece cover to help the animals endure the extreme cold. Back in Australia, for another month John works with a small team of blade shearers on stud sheep for show and sale preparation, mainly in Western Australia. Champion shearer started young In between he'll join conventional shearing teams in New Zealand, NSW, SA and WA, working for different contractors and constantly intent on improving his daily tally -- now over 200 for mechanical shearing. "Shearing is providing me with a great lifestyle. I'm seeing the world," he says. "There's always somewhere to go and new people to meet." Competition shearing is something FAST FACTS l Shearer John Dalla started blade shearing at 13; six years later he was the national champion. l John says shearing provides the perfect life and career, especially as it can provide a ticket to the world. l AWI funds training for 'improver' and professional shearers, as well as for novice and improver wool handlers. SHEARER AND WOOL HANDLER TRAINING AWI is funding training for 'improver' and professional shearers, as well as for novice and improver wool handlers. To find out more about the AWI training program and/or government-funded training initiatives, please contact AWI's preferred training provider in your state. AWI-PREFERRED SHEARING & WOOL-HANDLING TRAINING PROVIDERS STATE PROVIDER CONTACT NSW TAFE NSW -- Western Institute David Crean, 0419 422 340 Queensland QRITC Yvon Wigley, 1800 337 709 SA TAFE SA - Regional Bob Reid, 0427 604 255 Tasmania Primary Employers Tasmania Richard Leahy, 0438 265 753 Victoria SCAA Graham Shearer, 0427 435 244 WA CY O'Connor College of TAFE (Northern Region) Great Southern TAFE (Lower Southern Region) Stephen Madson, 0409 080 243 Peter Young, 08 9892 8840 John recommends to any young shearer wanting to improve their technique and tally. It has taught him how to cope well in a pressured environment. "Shannon Warnest and Jason Wingfield (fellow team members, and 2008 and 2009 machine shearing champions) have taught me a lot. I hold them in high esteem for their professional approach to their careers," he says. John Dalla blade shearing at Orrie Cowie in 2007 aged 17.
September November 2009