26 May 1995

Shearers in short supply

SHEEP producers are urged to book their shearer early, as it is predicted there will be a shortage of shearers this summer.

The National Association of Agricultural Contractors suggests the shortfall is about 10%. "The work will be done, it is just it will take longer for those shearing to get through it all," says Bob Blanden, a contractor based at Malmesbury, Wilts.

Nearly half the sheep in this country are shorn by itinerants, mainly from the Antipodes. But these shearers are staying at home, as the poor exchange rate enables them to earn more money there. "At the same time, they do not understand how to secure a work permit from the Department of Employment," explains Mr Blanden.

But he is more worried in the long term. "If these shearers continue not to come over we need to train here," he says. "That takes money, so the cost of shearing will need to go up to finance that. Over the past 15 years my charge has only risen 25p/ewe to 75p/ewe – a few pence more on each sheep would make all the difference." &#42

Flockmasters are urged to book their shearers early – there will be a 10% shortage of contractors this year.