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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
39 ON-FARM From tennis to triathlon, cricket to canoeing, video has proven for many years to be an effective learning tool for athletes to improve their technique. And today, with new technology making video recording tools so portable and cost effective, novice and experienced shearers are now learning the benefits of the medium. AWI has provided iPad tablets to several of its shearer trainers to record footage of their shearers in action. The footage is then reviewed by the shearer with the trainer to analyse areas in which the shearer could improve their technique. The shearer can view the footage during the training to make real-time improvements to their technique, or at a later time as a follow up for the shearer to review and work on. “Pictures are worth a thousand words, in all training, and it’s exactly the same with shearer training,” AWI Shearing Industry Training Development Coordinator Jim Murray says. “A shearer can be so focused on their job that they don’t necessarily appreciate that there might be a weakness in their technique. But when they see it on the screen, it can be a bit of a wake-up moment for them. That’s where the iPads have been invaluable.” While recording video footage for shearer training has been around since the 1980s, its use was limited due to the bulky equipment and difficulty with viewing and editing. “The new technology is great for both the trainer and the shearer. The iPads are very lightweight, flexible, and easy to operate. The trainer can easily get footage from in front of the shearer, behind them and from the side – and then highlight on the screen the problem areas that need attention. We can even freeze-frame the footage and play it in slow motion, which can be very useful. “We find that shearers make most use of the footage there and then at the session in which it was recorded, but there is also the option for us to send the footage with our comments via email to the shearer to review later. “The common areas that we find shearers can improve is their foot positioning, the entry points, their grip on the handpiece, and tearing the back leg out of the fleece when they’re putting the first big shot in on the hind leg. “But half the battle for shearers relates to how the sheep is being held. Reviewing the film can quickly show the shearers where they're losing control of the animal. If we can simply improve how the sheep is balanced then the sheep will be calm and the shearer is able to use his free hand to make bigger flatter surfaces on which to use the comb, which results in less second cuts, less skin cuts and less time on the board – which is better for everyone. As we say in the sheds, a ‘happy sheep makes a happy shearer’.” FAST FACTS l iPad tablets utilised by AWI shearer trainers are helping new and experienced shearers improve their technique and consequently the quality of woolgrowers’ clip. l The new technology is a simple, effective and economical way for shearer trainers to communicate to shearers. l The result is shearers make technique and efficiency gains more quickly, resulting in higher quality and faster shearing. New technology is being used as a learning aid for shearer training. New technology aids training shed. The board is washed if the farmer requests it, Trevor said. He also tries to get his shearers and staff that smoke to do so outside the shed and does his best to keep baling twine out of the shed to help clip quality. Many of the safety changes made in Trevor’s sheds were subsidised with the support of the industry, Michael Lawrence and the Australian Workers Union. Trevor would like to see similar subsidies continue for workers' safety and to keep Workcover premiums down. "People should come and see how simple it is to make a shed safe for everybody." He encourages shearing instructors to come to his shed when they can, has helped run shearing shed safety courses and is one of the few contractors in the region to provide health checks in his sheds for his workers. Trevor also has a firm stand against drugs in the industry, which he says are pretty common in the industry – mainly marijuana and speed – with users believing they helped them shear more sheep. "But it just knocks their bodies about," Trevor said. He is concerned that shearers using drugs could be shortening their working lifespan and are also less safety conscious in the shed. "I saw a shearer on drugs put his finger through the guard of a fan and knock the top off his finger. That's something you would do if you were too relaxed and not thinking." Trevor has tried to enforce a zero drug tolerance workplace procedural contract that also covered dogs in the shed, rifles and alcohol consumption, but had to compromise to get shearers. "I'm still very hard on it and I have sometimes had a spare stand in a shed because I have taken that stance. I tell them that if anything they do interferes with my time they are up the track. "The duty of care comes back to the contractor and the farmer has entrusted me with their livelihood – their sheep." Trevor said mothers often asked him to take their kids on work experience because of his anti-drug stance and a local school principal has also sent students out to work with him. "If I can work with the principal of that school and we can turn a kid's life around for just one day it is great." More information: www.wool.com/shedsafety March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE