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Beyond the Bale : Jun 07 - Jul 07
PROFILE Shannon Warnest World and Australian shearing champion Around the world in 80 clicks Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWI, GPO Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 to compete in Scotland. But in 2006 he again won the Golden Shears, this time on home soil at Toowoomba. Shannon is in unique company with David Fagan from New Zealand, as they are the only individuals to have won the Golden Shears on more than one occasion. In 2008, Norway is the destination and Shannon says if he can manage a few trips to New Zealand to brush up on his skills with crossbred sheep, he will be there. "I started entering competitions because in the shed I was always competing with myself; always wanting to improve," he says. "Plus it's an adrenaline rush. "But if you're going to have a go at competition shearing you have to be 100 per cent prepared or you don't stand a chance. I've shorn in New Zealand for the past seven years, going over for the main shearing from December to February and sometimes the second shearing in March." Shannon says the current Australian team of competitive shearers would be ranked first or second in the world when it comes to shearing Merinos, but would only be fifth or sixth in crossbred shearing, falling behind New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and England. "As the Australian flock changes from pure Merino to more crossbred sheep, we are getting better at crossbreds." A vice-president of the South Australian branch of Sport Shears, Shannon believes nurturing talent is vital in competition shearing. Sending young shearers from the competition circuit to spend six weeks shearing in New Zealand, all expenses paid, is invaluable. When asked about the best shearers around at the moment, Shannon names his Australian team-mates, saying Ross Thompson from NSW and Jason Winfield from Victoria are big threats. Shannon has also worked in sheds in Switzerland, Italy, England, Canada, Austria and South Africa, and still has plans to do some time in Scotland and Wales and the US. "I always tell the young shearers, choosing shearing as a career is a passport to the world. Once you are a shearer you can get a job in any wool-growing country at any time ... walk off the plane and the next day be making money. My only regret is that I didn't travel more when I was younger." Shannon leaves the tavern, and the 1000 Merino ewes on the farm bought two years ago, in Catherine's care for more than two months every year to travel around Australia as part of his arrangement with AWI. "When we first started training three or four years ago we saw a lot of young shearers, but the take-up wasn't good, they didn't choose to stay in the industry. Now the young ones who are coming through are those who want to shear. "I consider this training to be the bricks we need to build the house, which would be a strong supply of good shearers. We have to keep moving ahead. "Ten years ago the world record for sheep shorn in one day was 500.That was the pinnacle and no one ever thought it would be beaten. Now a Kiwi has just shorn 1000 in a day. "Everyone says money is the key to getting more shearers but I think they have to be happy being a shearer, and if they learn good techniques the job should be a lot easier." Shannon says a well-shorn sheep is the result of a shearer having: ú good rhythm -- "even if it means an extra blow or two that isn't necessary but it helps them keep that rhythm"; ú footwork and position of the shearer; ú good tools -- keep them well maintained; ú the position of the sheep; ú the position of the shearer's free hand; ú grip on the handpiece -- "you are not holding a butcher's knife. It's like you're holding a bird; it has to be tight enough so it doesn't fly away but not that tight that you choke it"; and ú consistency. "If everything works well, then you should be able to minimise the stress on your body and be able to extend your shearing life." -- KELLIE PENFOLD There has been many a young shearer who has gripped the handpiece, dreaming of the day's tally moving them a step closer to owning a pub or their own piece of land. At just 32, current world and Australian shearing champion Shannon Warnest now has both, and it is his turn to help the industry, which he says has given him a passport to the world. Shannon only treads the boards for about three months a year these days, because of the time he devotes to industry consulting through projects managed and funded by AWI. Advising on training programs, appearing in educational DVDs and 'training the trainers' are just a few of the roles that today offer him a vastly different perspective on the industry he entered as the 15-year-old son of a shearer. This mentoring role also influences his own shearing, which despite two world championships under his belt, he says he is continuing to refine. "You wouldn't believe how much I've learnt since I moved into this role," Shannon says from his base at the Willalooka Tavern, which he runs with his wife Catherine in south-east South Australia. "Only the other day I was working with a team I hadn't worked with for six months, and they all commented on how my style had changed. It's always evolving." Shannon says the latest changes to his style have resulted from more efficient blows and the balance of the sheep: "How you handle the animal makes a huge difference to how efficiently you shear. If you have the weight of the animal hanging to one side that puts a lot more pressure on you, whereas holding the animal in an upright position has made my shearing a lot more efficient." Shannon is one of Australian shearing's most prolific prizewinners. He considers shearing not only an occupation but a sport, in which a competitor can improve his or her performance through rigorous training and application to technique. He won his first Golden Shears (world championship) in 2000 when the international shearing competition was held in South Africa. In 2003 he missed out on the team that travelled PHOTO:TIM DUB
Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement
Apr 07 - May 07