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Shearer

Kaikuti Hipi

Alternative titles for this job

Shearers cut the wool from sheep with clippers.

Pay

Shearers with one to three years’ experience usually earn

$39K-$65K per year

Shearers with more than three years’ experience usually earn

$65K-$130K per year

Source: NZSCA, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a shearer are average due to limited vacancies.

Pay

Pay for shearers varies depending on skills, experience and the number of sheep shorn.

  • Shearers usually earn about $195 for every 100 sheep they shear. 
  • Shearers with up to three years' experience can shear up to 200 sheep a day and earn $39,000 to $65,000 a year.
  • Shearers with more than three years' experience can shear between 200 and 400 sheep a day and earn between $65,000 and $130,000 a year.

Source: New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association, 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Shearers may do some or all of the following:

  • catch sheep from a catching pen
  • move sheep out of the catching pen to a shearing stand
  • shear wool off in a set pattern of strokes
  • release sheep into a counting-out pen
  • clean combs and cutters and sharpen them.

Skills and knowledge

Shearers need to have knowledge of:

  • how to catch and handle sheep
  • how to hold sheep for shearing
  • proper sheep lifting and moving techniques 
  • good shearing techniques
  • how to use and maintain clippers
  • what type of equipment to use in certain conditions.

Working conditions

Shearers:

  • usually work eight or nine hours a day and sometimes work weekends
  • travel each day to a shearing shed, and sometimes stay in shearing quarters
  • work in busy and noisy shearing sheds
  • work mainly during peak shearing times from November to March and from July to September.

What's the job really like?

Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks

Shearer

Passion for shearing discovered over the years

Over the last 10 years, Sam has developed a passion for shearing. He started off as a shepherd and was told by his manager to get into shearing if he wanted to get ahead on the farm. He worked on a wool press until he was ready for shearing.

Hard work pays off 

“If you want a pay rise just go a bit faster”, he says that hardworking shearers can earn up to $150,000 per year.

“It’s important to be punctual and to have a good work ethic. You need a clear head and a bit of 'go' behind you to strive for the bigger numbers”.

Teamwork and conditions make job worthwhile

He says one of the best parts of the job is working in a team of six to eight people every day.

“You’re getting picked up for work and fed, and you don’t have to worry about much.”

Shearing contractors will give you work

Sam’s advice for anyone wanting to start in shearing is to call a shearing contractor.

“Let them know you’re keen to learn. To be honest, you’re not going to get a shearing spot straight away. Unless you can shear 200 or more sheep a day, you normally have to do an apprenticeship on the wool press first.”

Shearer video

Shearing tips from world title holder – 3.27 mins. (Video courtesy of GlobalHQ, publisher of Farmers Weekly)

Graig Wiggins: Welcome back to the Farmer's Voice. We're back in the Hawkes Bay, and we're going to look at Rowland Smith. He's going to tell us how to safely shear sheep.

Graig Wiggins: In the past animal activists have portrayed shearers as being cruel. What are your thoughts?

Rowland Smith: I think they're dwelling on the one percent factor that doesn't really happen at all. They're hunting it out to find out. No, it's not the way shearing is. We strive to do the best we can. We've got training systems in New Zealand, improving all the time. And look, it's beneficial for us to be better.

Graig Wiggins: Rowly, I'd like to introduce people that aren't aware of how sheep are shorn into some the equipment, can you explain what we have there?

Rowland Smith: On my right here is the cover comb which we use in the winter. It's got bigger gaps in the teeth here. And in my left hand is a normal comb for the warmer months. The reason we use a cover comb is to leave more wool on the sheep so it goes out to the colder weather with plenty of wool left on so it's happy outside.

Graig Wiggins: What length of wool will that cover comb leave?

Rowland Smith: It leaves about 10mms on will a fluffy finish over the top.

Graig Wiggins: So Rowly, you've set up a handpiece for us here. Please explain a little bit of the technical stuff you're doing here with this handpiece.

Rowland Smith: Yep. So what we're looking at here is to get our lead right so we do not pull and cut the skin. It's just a matter of setting right because we're using a winter comb here.

Graig Wiggins: Rowly, can you actually pick the skin up with that comb or is it sharpened to a point where it's got those nice lead-in edges.

Rowland Smith: We've rounded the tips over a fractor. So I can role my finger over there and it's going to just let the skin roll over nicely.

Graig Wiggins: Ok, we're about to watch Rowly shear a sheep and show us just how easy it can be done, and how kind you can do it for the animal's sake.

Rowland Smith: We're making sure we stay calm the whole time.

Graig Wiggins: Hey, thanks, Rowly. As you've just shown us, shearing is not a hard thing on the animal. Probably a harder on the human at times. We wish you the best of luck for the upcoming shearing season. As far as you're concerned shearing is not only a necessity, it's a good job and can be done well.

Rowland Smith: Yeah, for sure. As we just proved then there's no stress on the animal at all and look the sheep's going to be out there now happily putting on weight, which is what we need to make money.

Graig Wiggins: And if we didn't shear they'd be in a lot worse condition than if we left them.

Rowland Smith: That's right. It's going to be out there in the cold, too much wool on it, not doing much. Which is not what we want.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a shearer as you gain skills on the job. However, a New Zealand Certificate in Shearing – Blade/Crossbred/Fine (Level 4) may be useful.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science to at least NCEA Level 2 is useful.

Personal requirements

Shearers need to be:

  • safety-conscious
  • hard-working
  • reliable
  • good at using and caring for equipment.

Useful experience

Useful experience for shearers includes work on farms or jobs that involve handling animals.

Physical requirements

Shearers need to have: 

  • excellent fitness and health and must be strong
  • good hand-eye co-ordination.

Find out more about training

Primary Industry Training Organisation
0800 208020 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Shearer opportunities average but likely to improve

Opportunities for shearers are average because vacancies are limited.

However, demand for shearers is expected to increase, with employment numbers growing to over 2,000 by 2021, according to MBIE. 

Best opportunities for shearers in summer

Shearing opportunities are best in the South Island during summer and autumn. In the North Island, sheep are shorn during summer and winter. 

Shearing season limited

Some shearers work for three months a year while others may travel locally or overseas and work for as much as 10 months a year.

Qualifications can increase opportunities 

Shearing contractors are more likely to employ you if you have a shearing qualification.

Most shearers work for shearing contractors

Shearers usually work for shearing contractors who organise shearing gangs. Some shearers are self-employed. 

Sources

  • Barrowcliffe, M, president, New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association, careers.govt.nz interview, May 2019.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Shearers, Occupation Outlook', accessed May 2019, (occupationoutlook.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Stats NZ, 'Agricultural Production Statistics', June 2018, (www.stats.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Shearers may progress to organising shearing gangs as shearing contractors. 

Men shearing sheep

Shearers need to handle sheep correctly

Last updated 20 June 2019