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Beyond the Bale : June 2012
June 2012 BEYOND THE BALE 32 ON-FARM Andrea Froon shearing in the seniors competition at the Golden Shears World Championships in New Zealand in March. Andrea reached the semi-finals. With a Higher School Certificate (HSC) score of 92, Andrea Froon could have done pretty much anything with her career. Raised as one of seven kids on a sheep and cropping property in southern NSW, she went off to university with high hopes of becoming a vet. At 28, Andrea is now approaching eight years as a shearer – and loves it. The travel, flexibility, country lifestyle, and the challenge of a physically- demanding career are all joys for Andrea – and the $400 a day pay packet helps too! Andrea was 20 years old and in a gap period between courses when she was asked by a neighbour to roustabout for his shearing. "By the end of the week I'd shorn my first sheep," she said. "I ended up going to do a couple of days the following week and shore 32 in my first full day. "I did the odd day here and there and then went off to do a shearing school at Wagga Wagga, and I did my first full week of shearing in the week after I turned 21. “After that first 18 months, when you’re building up your numbers, you then get going and can make $400 a day, which is good money." Andrea has been entering shearing competitions for the past three years and is now in the senior class – and one win off entering the open class. "I make a lot of finals but then I battle with the speed against the boys," she said. "I've shorn in a few competitions in England, Wales, Ireland, and made the semi-finals in the seniors competition at the Golden Shears World Championships in New Zealand in March. "Going overseas has been a really good experience, more so because it was so different. "I've also got to explore Australia and have shorn in every state. "You can be spontaneous and if you have a week off, you can head to a different state and have a job there waiting for you." Andrea said shearers were so scarce these days that being a female shearer wasn't as unaccepted as in the past, especially with female wool handlers being so common. "A lot of the farmers say the girls are cleaner shearers than the boys so although we might shear 15 per cent fewer sheep SHEARING AN ATTRACTIVE CAREER than the boys, we're doing a good job for the farmer," she said. "Girls have to focus more on their technique. "We've shorn big South Australian Merino ewes that were 130kg, which is twice my weight, so you've got to know how to sit the sheep so it's comfortable or else with one kick, you're gone. “If you can get through that first 18 months, you're set." Andrea said one of the major issues in the shearing industry continues to be conditions, where infrastructure has often not been maintained since its 1950s construction. "When farmers say they can't get shearers, there's normally a reason and it's more than likely about conditions, especially poor toilets – or none at all,” she said. Andrea plans to see out 10 years of shearing and will then look to a new career – perhaps as a wool classer – and buy a block of land. FAST FACTS l One of Australia's top shearers is Andrea Froon who has been shearing in competitions for the past three years. l Female shearers generally have a good focus on technique which gives a clean shear of the sheep. l Andrea says one of the major issues in the shearing industry continues to be workplace conditions.