Country Smallholding - - Feature -

Bri­tish shear­ing has gained a lot of at­ten­tion in re­cent years, with a num­ber of world and UK record shear­ing at­tempts tak­ing place. It has helped to at­tract a new gen­er­a­tion of sheep shear­ers, such as 23-year- old Lloyd Rees, who lives near Bre­con in Powys, Wales. He al­ready has a num­ber of achieve­ments under his belt, hav­ing won sev­eral cham­pi­onships at the Royal Welsh, in­clud­ing the se­niors in 2016. He is now paid to shear for 10 months of the year and he trav­els ex­ten­sively as a re­sult of his work. He says that the pro­fes­sional train­ing he re­ceived from the out­set was es­sen­tial in help­ing him to im­prove his skills and the qual­ity of his work.

He first at­tended a Bri­tish Wool course at the ten­der age of 16 and went on to progress through var­i­ous cour­ses to achieve gold level in his field.

He ex­plains: “Ev­ery course has taught me some­thing and I think it’s hugely im­por­tant to con­tinue train­ing to im­prove your tech­nique and un­der­stand­ing. If you want to be good at shear­ing your own sheep, at­tend a course so that you can learn to shear in a ba­sic fash­ion. If you want to com­pete, it’s vi­tal that you im­prove and de­velop skills and, of course, your speed so you need to con­tinue learn­ing.”

The han­dling side is equally im­por­tant, as the fab­u­lously-named Jayne Hark­nessBones, a wool han­dling cham­pion, can cer­tainly tes­tify. A fully-trained art psy­chother­a­pist and drum­mer in a band called Vokxen, Jayne re­cently re­turned to her farm­ing roots by tak­ing up a po­si­tion as a wool de­pot man­ager for Ul­ster Wool in North­ern Ire­land.

Jayne, an en­thu­si­as­tic wool han­dler from the age of eight, says: “A ca­reer change was a mas­sive thing for me, but when you are born into an in­dus­try for which you have a pas­sion, it will al­ways draw you back in time.” When she isn’t work­ing in the de­pot, she helps her fa­ther, Robert, on the fam­ily farm.

Jayne also be­lieves that train­ing plays a vi­tal role in success. “Many peo­ple think that wool han­dling is easy; they then try to lift and han­dle the fleece and it doesn’t quite work out how they imag­ined. You have to un­der­stand the process of shear­ing a sheep be­fore you can grasp the process of how to ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently han­dle wool. It may not be rocket sci­ence, but you have to learn it, and only ongoing train­ing and de­vel­op­ment can help you achieve this. Farm­ers want to get as much re­turn as pos­si­ble for their clip, but if they don’t look af­ter it, their re­turn won’t be as prof­itable.” And she adds: “Wool is a very ver­sa­tile fi­bre so re­spect and ap­pre­ci­ate it — and take care of it as one of the world’s most nat­u­ral prod­ucts.”

Jayne Hark­ness-Bones is a wool han­dling cham­pion

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