Industry groups are working together to ensure that shearing can go ahead this season, as Covid-19 makes it unlikely that the usual influx of overseas shearers will be able to make it to the UK.
It is estimated that around a fifth of the UK’s sheep flock is usually sheared by overseas shearers, leaving a huge hole in resource this season, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors has said.
In order to safeguard the health and welfare of the British sheep flock, minimising the risk of heat stress and fly strike, the NAAC is hosting an online match-making register to bring together shearing contractors with skilled, proficient UK shearers to try to get the season completed. Shearers are being encouraged to come forward and register – whether they can give a whole month or just a day.
Organisations including British Wool, Farmers’ Union of Wales, NFU and National Sheep Association are encouraging farmers to get in touch with their usual contractor to organise their shearing.
NAAC chief executive Jill Hewitt said shearing contractors have a dual role of keeping shearers and customers safe, whilst providing a vital operation for sheep farmers. She added: “It is likely to be a more difficult, possibly extended season, and with Covid-19 restrictions in place, we will need more pre-planning on farms but we can do this if we all work together.”
British Wool’s head of producer marketing Gareth Jones stressed the importance of proficient shearers stepping forward to help in the national effort to ensure sheep are shorn to high standards, within the necessary timescales, to prevent animal welfare issues.
Meanwhile, NFU Cymru livestock board chairman Wyn Evans commented: “We need to get the job done but, for everyone’s protection in these unprecedented times, plans and adjustments in working practices will be needed by farmers and shearers working together to ensure the safest possible outcome.”
View the shearing register here: https://www.naac.co.uk/jobs/shearingregister/