Shearing gangs coping with limits

Shearing has continued amid the lockdown.

North Canterbury shearing contractor Mark Herlihy said the Alert Level 4 lockdown could not have come at a worse time for local shearing gangs.

‘‘We’re into the last of our pre-lamb shears, so we’re on a pretty tight schedule. It’s all hands on deck, but with the restrictions, we’ve had to cut down on numbers in our teams.’’

Under Alert Level 4, teams of two shearers and two shed hands have been operating in travelling bubbles and wearing masks, he said.

‘‘Normally, we would have double that number in a team and get through the work a lot quicker, so we are pretty lucky that the farmers are patient, but they understand there’s restrictions.’’

The restrictions meant farmers were putting up QR codes, hand sanitisers and masks and then staying out of the sheds. Some farmers preferred to do their own woolclassing, which was not possible under Alert Level 4 restrictions, so some were choosing to postpone for a couple of weeks, Mr Herlihy said.

It also meant shearing teams were taking their own food and missing out the usual farm home-baking, as some farmers ‘‘go out of their way to spoil us’’.

Alert Level 3 would make a difference, but there would still be restrictions, he said.

‘‘The rules will come out through the contractors association, but it’s just something we have to adapt to.

‘‘It’s the new normal. We’ve been here before and to be fair, it’s probably never going to be the way it was a couple of years ago.’’

But after last year’s lockdown experience, Mr Herlihy said most shearing contractors would have been better prepared this time around.


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