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Sheep’s the word

Thousands of woolly stars for the Golden Shears show have flocked from as far as Central Otago to Masterton this week.

Event organisers are finalising a “huge” logistical effort to move sheep in and out of town to be shorn over the three-day competition, which starts today.

New Zealand’s premier shearing, wool handling and wool pressing competition needs an estimated 3500 sheep for 400 competitors.

Shearing contractor and Golden Shears sheep officer Allan Grant said that, at a conservative estimate, it takes about 500 man hours with five men to prepare the sheep using a “tried-and-true” method.

“We’ve used the same plan for donkeys’ years, so we just need to follow it,” he said.

“The farmers play such an important role as well. It’s extra work for them, and we’re very grateful.”

Most of the sheep are Romney, sourced from five Wairarapa farms, while the Merinos are from Maniatoto and the Corriedales are from Taihape.

“It’s the best shearing competition, and that’s all there is to it,” Grant said.

Golden Shears president Trish Stevens said the sheep are held briefly in covered pens behind the stadium until required and are returned to the farms following shearing.

Stevens notes that the fleeces are sent to wool brokers on behalf of the farmers.

“We have a team of volunteers who ensure the sheep are transported to the stadium and returned to the right farm. It’s a huge operation and a real skill to ensure it all goes smoothly,” she said.

Stevens said shearers, wool handlers and pressers need a combination of abilities; they need to be fit, possess harmonious rhythm and quality control.

Golden Shears organisers said they judge shearing on speed and the quality of the shorn sheep.

Wool handling is based on the skill of differentiating between wool types and qualities within a tight time frame.

Pressing is graded on time, weight, and tidiness and branding of the bale.

The shearing section is divided into grades that are based on how many sheep a competitor can shear in an eight-hour day.

“Each grade has a series of heats, semi-finals and finals with competitors shearing between two and six sheep in the heats depending on the grade,” Golden Shears organisers said.

“The most prestigious section of Golden Shears is the Open Shearing grade.

“Finalists in this section must shear 20 sheep as fast and as cleanly as possible.”

Last year’s winner, Rowland Smith of Hastings, is back to defend his title this year.

The winner of the Open Final will receive the Golden Shears Open Challenge Trophy with $4000 of prize money. The prizes also include a Lister handpiece and products, alongside a top eligible placing to represent New Zealand in a Trans-Tasman team.

Golden Shears organisers said they want to see their “city cousins” come to Masterton to witness the fast-paced, high energy and exciting rural skills.

Tickets have day and night price options from February 29 to March 2. Buy tickets at www.goldenshears.co.nz or on the day.

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