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Beyond the Bale : December 2011
December 2011 BEYOND THE BALE 20 ON-FARM " owwouldyouliketogoto Ireland?" were the words of trainer Pete Artridge to students Dan Lewis and Mitch Small at smoko during the shearing school at Wagga Wagga TAFE. The pair jumped at the chance and started making plans to defer university for six months and take off around the world. Originally from Goulburn, Dan and Mitch are Agricultural Science students at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW. They travelled to Ireland to shear the short summer season along the eastern and central parts of Ireland with shearing contractor Roy Collier of County Wexford. They also travelled to Scotland to take part in shearing competitions. Mitch says the competitions were definitely some of the highlights of the trip. "There was a show on every weekend for most of the season in Ireland. One of the biggest was the two day Click All Ireland and International Shearing and Wool Handling Championships at Kilkenny. The Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh in Scotland was another highlight. We got to see and meet some of the best shearers in the world at these shows." Roy Collier, who the lads worked with, is himself a top shearer. In August, Roy set a new Irish and British Isles shearing record for lamb shearing when he shore 521 lambs in a nine hour shear. Dan warns that shearing can be just as hard work in Ireland as it is in Australia. "Generally the average shearing day this season included leaving home around 6.30am and driving up to two hours to a job. Between tea stops and showers of rain we managed to shear the sheep using a portable three stand shearing trailer. Depending on travel times and sheep numbers on any day we could manage to shear at three farms, sometimes more." An Irish day's shear has no set work hours; it simply continues until the job is finished, in some cases as late as 11 o'clock at night. "The set-up in Ireland is different to Australia. There are no shearing sheds to turn up to filled with nice dry sheep. Instead we shore in stock holding sheds or outside in the 'field' -- not stopping for showers of rain!" Dan says. "Another difference is the wool handling. There was no respect for the wool as there is here in Australia. There are no roustabouts or classers over there. The wool was thrown to the side and eventually picked up and thrown into a pack, unskirted." It is the first time in a few years that the wool is paying for the costs of shearing. Farmers are receiving €1.30/kg (about $1.70/kg). "Of course the biggest differences between shearing in Ireland and Australia are the types of sheep we shore. The Irish sheep are all British breeds such as Scottish Black Face, Suffolk, Belclare and Cheviot," Mitch says. The shearing itself was faster on average than in Australia. However the sheep were much harder to handle and were sometimes wild. The lads were both able to shear over 40 grown ewes per hour. As the shearing season in Ireland started to slow down with only a few days shearing a week, Dan and Mitch returned to Australia to recommence studying in July. "The opportunity to shear internationally is a privilege and gave us valuable experience and a chance to learn from the best in the world, as well as getting a firsthand look at farming techniques on the other side of the world." After getting a taste for travelling and working, Mitch and Dan are already planning their next trip, which will be shearing in New Zealand in January/ February, possibly trying to make it to the World Championships to be held over there in late February and early March. FAST FACTS l Shearing can provide the opportunity to travel, compete and work overseas, as well as around Australia. l Australian shearers have a good reputation internationally for their skills and work ethic. l Dan Lewis and Mitch Small from Goulburn used their shearing skills to help fund a working holiday around Europe. Shearing: ticket to the world Mitch and Dan at County Carlow in Ireland. (The wool handling practices in Ireland are different to Australia!) Mitch and Dan shearing in Ireland.