Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 21 July 2018

Fears sheep will die due to 'severe' shortage of shearers

Edward Cahill pictured during a day's shearing outside Dunlavin last week. He was working alongside his uncle John Corrigan and local contractor Joey Walsh. At only 14 years of age, Edward is hopefully among the next generation who will take up the busines
Edward Cahill pictured during a day's shearing outside Dunlavin last week. He was working alongside his uncle John Corrigan and local contractor Joey Walsh. At only 14 years of age, Edward is hopefully among the next generation who will take up the busines

Siobhán English

Animal welfare concerns have been raised by the Irish Sheep Shearers Association due to a severe shortage of shearers across the country.

“So many men have given it up and it is a serious problem now as there is a major backlog for those still in business, especially in this warm weather. We are fearful of animals dying,” said ISSA chairman Tom Dunne.

It’s believed that some farmers have been waiting up to five weeks to have their animals shorn.

Some contractors would have started in late April, but in some cases were forced to cancel jobs due to the low levels of lanolin present because of the bad winter. The onset of the current heat wave then saw a flurry of business, but this has now resulted in a backlog owing to the reduced number of contractors still in business.

Mr Dunne believes the sharp decline is due to a significant number of young people leaving sheep farming in favour of dairy.

“They are also going back into the building trade where there are better pay conditions,” he said. Sadly this is resulting in a shortage of young shearers coming on stream.

“It is hard work for sure, but some of the contractors do well out of it if they are at it full-time. They work in Ireland for the summer, and then go abroad to the likes of New Zealand for our winter.”

Bad wool prices have not helped matters, says Mr Dunne, as farmers are getting a mere 55c/kg, but paying the shearers up to €2.50 per head.

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“Farmers are disheartened and you cannot blame them. They are losing money, but the job still has to be done.”

Throughout the year, the Irish Sheep Shearers Association run courses in shearing and are encouraging those interested to get in touch.

“If there is someone keen to get into the business we would be delighted to hear from them,” Mr Dunne said. “It’s a great sport too and we have some of the best shearers in the world. Just look at what Ivan Scott has achieved.”

On Sunday, the ISSA will host the Top of Coome Sheep Shearing Competition in Waterville, Co Kerry. It will be one of the last chances for shearers to impress selectors ahead of the World Championships in France next year.


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