Click of the shears life­long call­ing

Countryman - - WOOL - Tari Jef­fers

Count­ing sheep has never been a means to fall asleep for Man­jimup shearer Ron Niven.

As a sheep shearer his “whole life”, Mr Niven has seen the highs and lows of the sheep in­dus­try and has worked around the State.

Mr Niven was in­ducted into the Shear­ing Hall of Fame in 2013 at the Shear Out­back’s sixth Festival of the Blades for his achieve­ments and con­tri­bu­tion to the shear­ing com­mu­nity.

Born in 1952 and in­volved in his fam­ily’s sheep farm at Rocky Gully, he be­gan shear­ing sheep us­ing a ma­chine in high school.

De­spite ma­chine shear­ing for a longer time, Mr Niven prefers blade shear­ing, which he started in 1979.

“With blades, you can shear top qual­ity sheep,” he said. “I’m a wool snob, I only shear Meri­nos.”

He added he pre­ferred blade shear­ing be­cause blades were qui­eter and kept the sheep more pas­sive.

“Back in the day, blades pro­vided the neat­est cut but then as ma­chine shear­ing tech­nol­ogy ad­vanced, it made the job quicker,” he said.

“Wide gear came into fash­ion about 1982 and the combs got bet­ter.”

Like any pro­fes­sion, shear­ing was a skill that had to be de­vel­oped, Mr Niven said.

“You have to have a rhythm and un­der­stand that ev­ery sheep is an in­di­vid­ual,” he said.

Mr Niven has per­fected his skills in ma­chine and blade shear­ing dur­ing the 30 years he ran his busi­ness of shear­ing sheep across the State.

There was a time, in the 80s and 90s, when the sheep in­dus­try was “rock­ing and rolling”, that Mr Niven and his team could ar­rive at a client’s prop­erty and have be­tween 200-400 sheep to shear.

“My per­sonal best with blades is 54 rams in a day,” Mr Niven said. “On av­er­age, I could do be­tween 35 and 40 rams a day.”

The shearer said he found farm­ers al­ways took the best care of him and his team.

Mr Niven said the so­cial as­pect had al­ways been a great part of the job, even though it kept him away from home about six months a year.

He said farm­ers would some­times also seek his advice on sheep and ma­chin­ery main­te­nance.

In ad­di­tion to his busi­ness, Mr Niven’s in­volve­ment in the shear­ing in­dus­try also in­cluded be­ing a shear­ing in­struc­tor for seven years through the for­mer Aus­tralian Wool Cor­po­ra­tion.

Mr Niven said his main goal in his pro­fes­sion was to aim to leave the sheep they shore “look­ing their best”.

“A well-shorn sheep will sell bet­ter and we al­ways aimed for qual­ity, not quan­tity,” he said.

Pic­ture: Tari Jef­fers Photo avail­able at west­

Sheep shear­ing hall-of-famer Ron Niven says shear­ing, like any pro­fes­sion, is some­thing you have to want to do and need pa­tience to do it prop­erly.

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