Farmer Focus Livestock: Shearer shortage annoys Bryan Griffiths

Grass is fresh and succulent, the single payment form is posted and feeding chores are almost over.

At last a chance to do a few jobs such as finishing the garden wall I started last autumn. Armed with my bike-mounted sprayer I have resumed the fight against weeds. Creeping thistles seem easy enough to defeat, nettles a little more stubborn. But, after several years of trying numerous products, the docks still have the upper hand.

All stock is out, apart from a few cattle we considered to be forward enough to finish in the next two months or too manic to be given the right to roam. There is also a growing band of lambs indoors, as yet too young to live on grass alone, mostly orphaned as their mothers succumb to the usual spring complaints such as sore teats, bad udders or sudden-death syndrome. We are having the usual running battle with sheep getting caught on their backs, which I will rectify soon with my clippers.

Men of my generation and older will know sheep shearing in the past was a useful step up the farming ladder. In our youth and with just a few hundred pounds’ worth of kit one could spend the relatively quiet post- lambing/pre-harvest period earning a decent rate of pay, locally, while gaining knowledge of different breeds and management systems.

A few weeks ago, with a shortage of shearers looming, I fully expected an urgent campaign and pots of modulated money being spent training and encouraging youngsters to take up this skill. Instead our industry’s leaders moved with almost indecent haste to persuade the government to ease immigration laws, thus allowing much of the proceeds from this rewarding sideline to find its way to the southern hemisphere.

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