Farmers Feeling the Heat with Shearer Shortages

A shortage of shearers could cost farmers this summer, with New Zealand and Australian shearers stuck across the ditch due to closed borders.

Shed hands and wool handlers could also be in short supply.

The lack of labourers could mean longer hours in the woolshed which could lead to more injuries due to a bigger workload.

Many New Zealand shearers live in Australia and travel back and forth between the two countries during the shearing season.

President of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association, Mark Barrowcliffe, said it would be a big problem if the shearers couldn't travel between the two countries. Additionally, due to limited MIQ places, getting UK shearers in would also prove difficult.

Each year, over 30 million sheep are shorn throughout New Zealand.

The impact of the recent Delta outbreak has already presented challenges for South Island farmers coming to the end of pre-lambing.

Shed hands are very scarce in the South Island, said Barrowcliffe, with the main shear in the North Island starting soon.

The main shear starts in the North Island from November to January before moving into the South Island from February to March.

Where staff ended up in New Zealand and the season of each region could cause some tough calls as well.

Fine weather is needed to shear sheep, and if they are wet that would cause a delay, said Barrowcliffe. If flies strike and shearers don't get there in time, then farmers would need to deal with that too.

With the labour shortage, the price of sheep could go up as well.

The shortage would also affect shearers and shed hands being overloaded.

Barrowcliffe said they are looking inwards within increased training and upskilling workers while also trying to attract new recruits into the industry.

It takes time and practice to train a shearer to a suitable level, so it's not an overnight job, said Barrowcliffe.