Thursday 5 August 2010

Shearing outdoors

The Tarset climate is not exactly favourable for out door shearing. Sheds do have their uses in that once the sheep are housed for the day it is highly unlikely they'll get wet. It is preferable if the wool is dry when taken off their backs and packed, saves it from moulding. Shearers are also more comfortable when shearing dry sheep as wet wool soon soaks through the clipping jeans. It can be a huge gamble trying to get sheep shorn without a roof over their heads. As was the case just the other day when assisting a local farmer gather his sheep for the shearers to come and clip them.
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There had been a heavy rainfall the previous night and the forecast wasn't spectacular for this particular day but a 'phone call at 6am gave the go ahead - lets gather.

The sheep appeared sodden but the wind got up and they soon dried off.
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The shearers set up their trailer and pens were filled with sheep.
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All was in place for a days shearing although it was a mid morning start for the two fellas doing the clipping, due in main to us not being out quick enough to gather which was in fact caused by the inclement weather the night previous, but not to worry, they got underway and everything was crossed in the hope that the threatened showers may keep away.
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Electricity was provided via a generator allowing the lads to not only clip but run their radio too (an essential if one wishes to save their sanity!), the genny also came in handy for boiling the kettle at bait time. Wonder what the old fellas would say to all of this when they used to clip away with hand shears out on these hills with a good crack and banter going and I do believe very often a barrel of beer for bait times - what a good idea!!

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The electric shears tend to be noisy and the radio does indeed help drown out the racket of electric machines and blaaring sheep, although there are times when that would be preferable to the sing - along which occasionally occurs when a favourite track is played over the radio.

The weather held off - well almost! There was a shower at dinner time but that didn't cause too much trouble, just enough to wet everyone (sheep included) then it blew off. The shearers were relieved, recounting the day they turned up, sheep penned and waiting, when the heavens opened and refused to close, all they could do was turn around and head for home as the pen gates were flung open and sheep let back to the hill.
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A fortunate day, one which went along smoothly, regardless of the not so promising weather forecast. Well over 400 sheep were let out of the pens with their lambs at foot and their winter coats missing - everyone concerned was happy.

A shearer I know was telling me recently that he was busy shearing outside near the road when a car pulled over and a New Zealander got out. He was transfixed at sheep being shorn outdoors. A shearer himself he was over in this country for the Golden Shears competition which was held in Wales. Being from New Zealand he had never seen a clipping trailer set up out side as all the farms in his home country have purposefully built shearing sheds. Here in this country we have to make do with whatever we can, whether it be under cover our outdoors. When I talk about shearing in a shed it is usually a cattle or hay shed which is used, most definitely not a purpose built shearing shed!

Going back to the Golden Shears competition (the worlds best shearers competing against one another for the coveted golden shears) apparently the first sheep went off the boards in 30 seconds, that means it was clipped in thirty seconds........ apparently that particular shearer had to be content with fifth place due to the fact he 'drew blood' on one of the sheep he was clipping, a large gash due to the speed he was going led to him losing points and dropping down the placings. As said once before there is more to shearing than meets the eye.


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