Preparation key to a successful shearing season

19th May 2021

National Sheep Association (NSA), British Wool and the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) are joining together this month to remind the nation’s sheep farmers of the need to consider planning well ahead to ensure shearing of flocks is completed efficiently this year.
As in 2020, Covid-19 is still restricting some movements, including that of many shearers travelling from New Zealand and Australia who would usually make the annual trip to the UK to complete the shearing season. Farmers are therefore advised to book in shearers and consider where wool will be sent for processing in good time.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “With the shearing season already underway in some parts of Britain, and due to ramp up significantly over the coming month, sheep farmers find themselves in the same position as last year.”
NAAC Chief Executive Jill Hewitt adds: “Covid restrictions and quarantine requirements across the world continue to cause a problem for shearing contractors, and we are expecting very few overseas shearers to be able to travel to the UK again this year. The NAAC has set up a register of shearers and is asking UK shearers to get involved in the national effort and make sure sheep are shorn safely, protecting human health and animal welfare. We would also encourage farmers to get in touch with their contractor, to get booked in and make certain they are aware of what will be needed to get shearing done as efficiently as possible, to offset what is likely to be an extended season with shearers under increasing pressure.”
In addition to NAAC’s register of shearers NSA also has its own NSA Shearing List, designed to give farmers a further option if they are in need of extra assistance, perhaps from other farmers in their area able to shear smaller numbers of sheep in addition to their own.
Mr Stocker continues: “As sourcing a shearer could potentially prove problematic once again this year I would encourage anyone with shearing skills to consider advertising via the NAAC register or NSA’s list. This will help farmers get their sheep shorn and could offer some income opportunities for those willing to roll their sleeves up to help. Despite our concerns we got through last season with very few problems but were blessed by some good weather that didn’t disrupt progress, and with a fair wind there’s no reason why we can’t do the same again.”
Guidance for sheep farmers and shearers on how to work safely during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is available to download here and should be followed in combination with the industry guidelines during shearing that NSA, NAAC and British Wool were all involved in producing alongside other industry partners, providing all involved in the process with recommendations to maintain high welfare standards and to assist with improved presentation of wool when sent for processing.
Once shearing is complete NSA is encouraging sheep farmers to send their fleeces in for processing at their local British Wool depot as soon as possible and not to be tempted to store it as many did last year. Mr Stocker says: “Due to Covid-19 and it’s knock on effect on global wool prices British Wool has required significant restructuring in order to reduce operating costs preventing further drop in prices for producers. However, these savings will only be realised if throughput levels are maintained and therefore NSA encourages farmers to forward their clip to their depots as they normally would.”
Jim Robertson, a sheep farmer from Dumfriesshire in Scotland and Chairman of British Wool adds: “British Wool is a cooperative and we firmly believe that the collaborative marketing of the UK wool clip is the best way to deliver value for wool producers. If anything, this principal is even more essential today than it was when British Wool was established in 1950. The wool clip needs to be sorted and amalgamated into commercial weights if it is to be used by manufacturers and achieve value for producers.
“In 2020 British Wool handled less due to a small number of producers not seeing value in delivering their wool. This in turn had a negative impact on our operating cost per kilo. The more wool we handle the more cost effective our operations become which in turn allows us to return more value to all producers. Every kilo of wool British Wool handles makes an important contribution to supporting your organisation ensuring we can continue to provide a high standard of service to all producers, drive demand for British wool with our customers and downstream manufacturers, work with universities and industry on new product development and finally, continue to represent your best interests as wool producers.
“I’d encourage all producers to support British Wool and for those who have wool from 2020 still on the farm, to deliver this into British Wool this season.”