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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
By Kellie Penfold Like many woolgrowers, shearing time has often proved frustrating for Trevor Harding, with some staff not turning up, or new faces appearing each day affecting plans for a smooth program. However, Trevor believes growers also have a large role to play in creating a reliable shearing workforce and consequently a sustainable shearing industry. A shearer himself for 17 years, Trevor and his son Steve, who shear 6000 Merinos each year at 'Kingsford', Illford, near Mudgee in central NSW, like to foster a culture of learning and professionalism in their shed. Earlier this year, Trevor attended the Shear$marter event, hosted by AWI in Dubbo, where he saw some of the country's top shearers, wool handlers and classers demonstrate the latest techniques and the benefits of ongoing training. Trevor returned to the farm and then contacted the Western Institute of TAFE -- the shearing and wool-handling training providers in NSW -- to organise a shearing and wool-handling trainer to spend a day in his shed during shearing. "While it was only a day, and people can soon slip back into their old habits, they did have an impact," he says. "One thing they did, which was of great benefit, was write a list of things that would make the shed work more smoothly. It was like a fresh set of eyes looking at how we do things." Trevor says the trainers also provided his team with pointers on improving the quality of the clip: "Just one idea was to leave the shanks on the front legs to avoid contamination of the wool ... mind you, that's quite hard when you are used to shearing that way." When Trevor was a shearer many years ago, most of the local shearers were woolgrowers or their sons and usually they were shearing the neighbour's sheep, which created a sense of doing the job right and helping the grower to improve clip quality. Today, with shearers in short supply, he says woolgrowers often do not want to mention 'quality of job' in fear of upsetting the crew. "It's hard to change the attitude of some staff and the hardest thing is to unlearn. Training needs to focus on those entering the industry and woolgrowers need to encourage trainees wherever they can. "I'd welcome a couple of wool-handling trainees in our shed any time." Trevor also advocates keeping the shed in good working order and has plans to improve the design and layout of his four-stand shed when money and time permit. "The ideal would be a raised board, and we'd improve the layout of the pens, board and chutes to provide a better working environment. Also, in the future we'd improve the covering of the sheep yards for better pre-shearing presentation of sheep, and increase shed space for better flow of sheep at shearing and when handling them for other activities throughout the year." AWEX CEO Mark Grave echoes Trevor Harding's statements, saying it only requires simple steps from woolgrowers to ensure they have provided the opportunity for the best possible outcome at shearing time. "The recent focus from China on wool preparation, contamination and dark fibre -- highlighted by the open letter to Australian woolgrowers -- means that anybody involved in wool-growing or the wool har vest has an important role to play in the overall quality of Australian wool," Mr Grave says. "We want all customers of Australian wool to have confidence in their purchase." In this issue of Beyond the Bale, AWEX has provided an extract from the 2007-09 AWEX Woolclasser's Code of Practice detailing some of the basic responsibilities that can positively influence the wool harvest. ú More information: AWEX, 02 9428 6100, firstname.lastname@example.org Clip quality can hang on workplace standards Growers can improve the quality of the harvest by encouraging training and professionalism in the shearing shed 11 WOOL HARVESTING BEYOND THE BALE Steps to a quality clip AWEX advocates woolgrowers take three steps to improve the quality of their wool clip.They are: Facilities Provide clean and safe facilities (including the yards) for the wool harvest.The shearing shed is a busy workplace where clean and safe facilities will assist shed and shearing staff to complete their job effectively.Woolgrowers who complete a pre-shearing checklist are taking the first step to a successful wool harvest. A pre-shearing checklist is available at www.awex.com.au. Eliminating contamination risk Contamination comes in many forms, but can be broken into wool contaminants and non-wool contaminants. Wool contaminants include urine/dung stain and dark and medullated fibre.Woolgrowers can assist the shearing team by simply having sheep crutched pre-shear (up to three months before shearing) and shearing any pigmented or fleece shedding breed of sheep last, after all Merinos are shorn. Contamination from branding fluid is still a major concern to wool processors. Scourability of branding fluid is affected by the time of application, how it was applied, the colour used and environmental factors.Where possible, avoid using branding fluid. If it is found in a sample, the buyer will assume there is a high probability there is more through the lot. Complacency is not an option: figures from the past six months of sales show contamination by heavy brands costs the woolgrower up to 100 cents a kilogram at sale. Communication Woolgrowers must ensure that the shearing team and the wool classer and contractor are aware of the order of mobs coming into the shed, the expectations of the woolgrower and any issue that may affect the shearing team. Communication should be ongoing through the wool harvest to ensure woolgrowers get the most from the shearing team. Trevor Harding and his dog Gripple. "Training needs to focus on those entering the industry and woolgrowers need to encourage trainees wherever they can." -- Trevor Harding PHOTO:VANESSA ROGET
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08