What does a shearer do?
A shearer is employed to shear as many sheep per day as they can. They need to be fit and strong because they are also required to bring the animals from pens to the shearing station. Shearers select the correct shearing combs for the type of wool on the sheep and according to the condition of the wool. Having knowledge of animal welfare and guidelines helps with being able to keep the animal calm. But, generally speaking, sheep are fairly easy going. After they finish shearing the sheep, the shearer returns the shorn animal to the pen, and gets the next sheep. At times shearers may be required to help treat injured animals, and of course look after the tools of the trade – their shearing hand piece, combs and cutters! Shearers tend to go where the work is, so once they have finished shearing sheep on one wool station, they go to the next place they are needed.
How did you become a shearer?
There are no high school pre-requisites or other educational requirements to becoming a shearer, but having a training qualification helps. This lets the wool grower/shearing contractor know that you’ve learned from qualified professionals on how to build your shearing speed and quality, whilst developing the correct technique. Courses also cover important topics like animal welfare, managing your finances, work practices and workplace health and safety. Alternatively, you can enter the industry from a wool handling pathway. At the start, while shearers are still building their fitness and shearing skill levels, they may work as a wool handler. Wool handlers pick up the shorn fleeces and help prepare the wool for the wool classer, help keep the shed clean other jobs may include penning sheep and wool pressing.
What does a typical working day involve?
Getting up early for work is part of the job, and the day usually follows the same routine. It consists of four 2 hour shearing sessions starting at 7.30 am and finishing at 5.30 pm. Usually, there are two 30 minute breaks throughout the day and a one hour break for lunch. You will probably be paid according to the number of sheep you shear, plus various allowances, so it’s up to you how much you earn, depending on how hard you work each day.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
Employment prospects are very good for shearer both in Victoria and nationally. It is not just seasonal work either, as there is work all year round for those willing to travel, locally, interstate and even with opportunities to travel the world to other sheep shearing nations. However, shearing may not suit people with allergies as shearers mostly work in hot, dusty and noisy conditions.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
Shearing requires you to be reliable, efficient and methodical. It is also important to be patient and tolerant as you will be working with animals. Those best suited to the industry should be people who enjoy keeping fit, working in a dynamic team environment and traveling.
Are there any tips for getting a job as a shearer?
Shearers who shear large flocks of sheep usually work in teams, and travel between properties to work. You may live and work on a property until the job is done so being flexible and adaptable to working and different living conditions is a plus. Usually, you would need a current drivers' licence and your own vehicle. You may also need your own shearing equipment. Being fit, hardworking and demonstrating a good attitude will improve your chances of getting steady work.
Find out more about this career path at skills.vic.gov.au