Shearing time – one of the most exciting times of year in the rural calendar.
At least it was for me growing up on a sheep station.
I still get excited about shearing because it was such a huge event in my childhood. It was when strangers arrived at our property and stayed in the workers quarters up the road from the house. There were new people about the place – people I wasn’t to annoy with my endless chattering. Something which I pretty much obeyed because I was shy but I studied them intensely from afar and loved it when I got to take the smoko to Dad and see all the goings on in the shed.
These strangers were called Shearers and this is their tale.
It had been a long time between shearing events. Capturing shearing on camera was something I had long wanted to do however many stations out west have moved into meat producing sheep like Dorpers and away from Merino and wool stock. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit one that still shears – a friend of my brothers gave me an open ticket to click away one afternoon and click away I did.This first chapter is about the Shearers and their clients the sheep.
The story of the annual clip.
There is a knack to handling the sheep. They don’t struggle and they actually become very quiet and easy going whilst being shorn. They are not terrified as some radical animal rights zealots would have you imagine. Instead they are usually calm and accepting, perhaps looking forward to feeling lighter and cooler after their hair cuts. A dog getting a haircut would make far more fuss.
A Merino sheep that is not shorn annually grows layer upon layer of fleece. It is sad to see a sheep that has been missed from the muster for a few consecutive year – they often die burdened by incredibly heavy double or even triple layer of fleece or bedevilled by fly strike and maggots eating them whilst they are still alive.
With temperatures soaring into above 45 degree’s in summer – an unshorn sheep would suffer extreme discomfort.
A sheep in the hands of a skilled shearer (which most of them are) is in very good hands indeed. The whole process takes very little time and before it knows it – the sheep is free to go.
Sheep are shorn twice a year. Crutching and Shearing. The property owner usually handles the crutching without employing extras as it is an even quicker process. Crutching involves just the trim of forehead hair and around the crutch. This alleviates wool blindness and fly strike – both of which can be killers to sheep left untended in the paddock as they are for most of the rest of the year.
Haircut over – time to bustle down the ramp and wait with friends to be let out into the paddock.
Note the sling. A few shearers use them to save their backs from repetitive stress injury.
Picking the next customer…
The sheep are bought inside from the yards and kept in pens within the shed. Each shearer accesses a pen through the swinging timber doors as seen above. As the day goes on more sheep are bought in to fill the pens as required.
Smoko break. Time for a cuppa, a relax and a chat.
The all important combs are sharpened to ensure that they are running at optimum efficiency.
That’s it for this chapter – there are two more chapters in the shearing story down the track.
The moniker The Picture Taker is mine from Flicker in case you were wondering and if you’ve enjoyed this picture story and want to see others I have done on the blog to date they are linked as follows The Lads – A Picture Story Races #3, A Picture Story – Day at The Races #1, A Picture Story – Races #2 It’s all about the ladies… A Picture Story – Mothers Daughters and Milestones, The Sacred Women’s Pool – A Picture Story,Low Tide – A Picture Story.