While most teenagers are winding down for a relaxing summer ahead, Gisborne’s Jodiesha Kirkpatrick is sharpening the combs and cutters for her first crack at full-time shearing.
The 17-year-old grabbed the farming world’s attention recently when Federated Farmers posted a Facebook photo showing Jodiesha holding her 200th lamb shorn in one day.
Jodiesha says she’s very much still learning, but she’s proud to have hit the milestone.
“I started doing all the last sides for dad on his farm about two years ago, when I was 15. The last side is the easiest part of the sheep to shear, so he’d make me do that.
“I didn’t know how to shear a full sheep until last year and this main shear coming up over summer will be my first full-time shearing.
“I just want to get better, and my next goal is 200 ewes.”
Jodiesha reached her impressive 200-lamb tally in November while shearing for Federated Farmers national meat & wool chair Toby Williams, on his Pihitia Station just north of Gisborne.
Williams describes the teenager as “a fantastic shearer” who takes her time and focuses on quality.
“The big thing about Jodiesha is she didn’t rush out and try to do 200 – she just did 200 really well-shorn sheep.
“There’s a saying among the good shearers that you focus on quality and the pace will come. Jodiesha’s parents, Ian and LilyBeth, have instilled that in her and in all their shearers. It’s about quality, with nice pink sheep coming out.
“She’s got really soft hands when she’s shearing. Each blow counts and is exactly as she wants it.”
Those in the shearing community won’t be surprised at Jodiesha’s prowess with a handpiece, given her pedigree.
Ian and LilyBeth were, until recently, long-time shearing contractors and organisers of the Gisborne Shearing and Woolhandling Championships at the Poverty Bay A&P Show.
Jodiesha’s brother Ian (junior) was the 2008 top-ranked intermediate shearer and winner of both the Golden Shears and New Zealand Shears intermediate finals, a treble he repeated in the senior grade in 2009.
Meanwhile, her uncle John Kirkpatrick is a legend of the sport, winner of more than 200 Open titles worldwide, including World Championship 2017, multiple Golden Shears Open titles and New Zealand Shears Open titles.
There’s plenty of other shearing and sporting talent in the Kirkpatrick line.
Jodiesha has already achieved competitive success too, including third in the junior shearing final and second in the junior woolhandling final at the Central Hawke’s Bay A&P Show in Waipukurau in November.
“That’s pretty bloody fantastic,” Williams says. “To get a place in a final in your division for either wool handling or shearing is an incredible achievement, but to achieve both in the same show at that age is exceptional.”
Jodiesha says she finished school at 15 because she knew what she wanted to do for a living.
“I left school to help my parents with their shearing contract – they needed some more workers – but mostly because I like doing it. Shearing is what I see myself doing in the future.”
Shearing is far more than just a job, she says.
“I like that I get to be by myself and do my own thing, and I really like the physical side of it.
“It’s good money but it’s also a good lifestyle and it can take you heaps of different places, getting you out of your hometown. And working with heaps of older people is cool because I learn a lot from them, and I enjoy hearing their stories.”
Jodiesha has already worked as a rousie in the South Island and is keen to shear in other parts of the country. Overseas destinations high on her list include Italy and Australia.
People she’s inspired by include her dad, brothers, and boss Tama Niania, who owns the run formerly owned by her parents.
She suspects the rest of the gang treat her a little differently because of her age.
“They’re a bit more polite,” she says, laughing. “If there’s any arguments at work, they try not to bring that around me. I think they like to look after me.”
Williams says there’s no doubt Jodiesha’s one to watch.
“She’s a dedicated young girl. She left school early to pick up a profession that will take her all around the world. She’s going to go a long way.”
Where does Jodiesha see herself 10 years from now?
“Still shearing, going faster,” she says.
Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.