Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sheep flock to Masterton for Golden Shears

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Logistics the first hurdle to clear before championships get underway.
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Thousands of sheep from as far away as Central Otago will be in Masterton this week ready to take centre stage at the Golden Shears.

Organisers of New Zealand’s premier shearing, wool handling and wool pressing championship are finalising what is a huge logistical effort to get sheep in and out of the town for the three-day competition starting on February 29.

The competition needs about 3500 sheep for the 400 or so who compete.

Most of the sheep are Romney sourced from Wairarapa farms, but there will also be Merinos from Maniatoto and Corriedales from Taihape.

Golden Shears president Trish Stevens said the sheep are held briefly in covered pens behind Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium until they are needed, and returned to where they came from following shearing. Their fleeces are sent to wool brokers on behalf of the farmers.

“We have a team of volunteers who ensure the sheep are transported to the stadium and returned to the right farm. It’s a huge operation and a real skill to ensure it all goes smoothly,” she said. 

The man in charge of ensuring this year’s sheep flow is Allan Grant. He said they have a tried and true plan that works well.

“We’ve used the same plan for donkeys’ years so we just need to follow it. The farmers play such an important role as well – it’s extra work for them and we’re very grateful.”

For their part, shearers, wool handlers and pressers need to be fit, have good rhythm and focus on quality, Stevens said.

Shearing is judged not only on speed but also the quality of the shorn sheep. Wool handling is judged on the skill of the handler to differentiate between wool types and qualities in a set time frame. Pressing is judged on time, weight and neatness of the bale, as well as branding of the bale. 

The shearing competition is divided into grades based on how many sheep a competitor can shear in an eight-hour day. Each grade has a series of heats, semi-finals and finals with competitors shearing between two and six sheep in the heats depending on the grade.

The most prestigious section of Golden Shears is the Open Shearing grade. Finalists in this section must shear 20 sheep as fast and as cleanly as possible. Last year’s winner, Rowland Smith of Hastings, is back to defend his title this year.

The winner of the Open Final receives the Golden Shears Open Challenge Trophy, $4000 prize money, a Lister handpiece and products plus top eligible placing to represent New Zealand in the Trans-Tasman team. 

“Golden Shears showcases the best of rural skills – it’s fast-paced, high energy and really exciting to watch,” Stevens said.

Tickets can be bought in advance from www.goldenshears.co.nz or just turn up on the day. 

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