One of New Zealand’s most successful female competition shearers has smashed a world shearing record by almost 10 sheep an hour.
Shearing on Wednesday at Nukuhakari Station in coastal King Country, in one of records-shearing’s most stunning displays, Catherine Mullooly set a new solo women’s eight-hours strongwool ewes record of 465.
She had a quality rating of 10.4, well within the threshold set by the World Sheep Shearing Records Society, and her feat was considered “amazing” by most onlookers considering the struggle with “stroppy” sheep during the day.
On hand to see the effort was Wairarapa shearer Amy Silcock, who had held the record for just three days after shearing 386 near Pahiatua on Sunday.
Starting at 7am, Mullooly shore successive two-hour, above-record-pace runs of 116, 117 and 116 before passing the target about 3.40pm and magic-number 400 soon afterwards, with still over an hour to go to the finish at 5pm.
Signing off with 116 in the last run, after one was rejected by the four-man records society referees panel, she averaged over 58 sheep an hour throughout the day – about 28 tonnes of sheep hauled onto the board, shorn and departing through the porthole, clipping over 1.6t of wool – and also passed the women’s nine-hour record of 452 in the last quarter-hour.
Shearing legend Sir David Fagan was unable to be present but, watching live-streaming mid-afternoon, said he was particularly proud of the quality that had been made, showing the benefits of a winning competition career, during which Mullooly in 2014 became the first women to attain a No 1 ranking in any grade since national sports organisation Shearing Sports New Zealand put a rankings system in place in 1992.
He said Mullooly and new lambshearing records holders Megan Whitehead (686 lambs in eight hours) and Sacha Bond (720 lambs in nine hours) had taken women’s shearing “to a new level” and he looks forward to seeing them in women’s events and other competitions throughout the grades later in the season.
The sheep had been “challenging” but Mullooly was able to restore the control without lowering her standards, he said.
“It’s brilliant,” he said.
Referees panel convenor Andy Rankin, of Loch Lomond, Scotland, had seen Mullooly shear in Scotland some years ago and said she was then a good senior shearer he knew would succeed at the top “if she kept at it”.
“It was a good record,” he said, adding the good quality of the shear, and the organisation of the day, made it easier for the officiators.
The 34-year-old, from Mātāwai, Gisborne, who has won competitions in the junior, intermediate and senior grades and was a quarter finalist in the New Zealand Merino Shears Open championship in Alexandra in September, had a big team of supporters, including her father Myles Mullooly and his partner Audrey Tamanui-Nunn, and her own partner, Ardy Donnelly and their sons Brynn, 3, and Coel, 1.