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Shearing remains an essential service, but restrictions are creating headaches for North Canterbury shearers as winter looms.
Shearing contractors spoken to by Central Rural Life said while they supported the lockdown restrictions, there could be animal welfare issues ahead if they got too far behind in their shearing workload.
Rangiora shearing contractor Rowan Nesbit said the Level 4 lockdown restrictions meant his shearers had worked in smaller teams and travelled to jobs in separate vehicles, slowing the work down and adding to the costs.
“To keep the two metre distances, we [could] only have two shearers and two shed hands on a job and in smaller sheds that becomes a logistical challenge.
“We are asking farmers to stay out of sheds and that they spray benches and eating areas before we commence work and we are taking all our own food and cutlery, even where the farmers usually provide meals.”
Recently, he had a team shearing in Lees Valley, who shore just 350 sheep a day between two shearers, instead of the usual 900 sheep a day.
Moving to Alert Level 3 allowed shearing teams to form a bubble. Sharing cars and having one-metre spacings would improve efficiency.
“We are doing the jobs that are urgent and farmers are trying to hold off until things settle down, but if we get too far behind it will become a nightmare, especially if we get bad weather.”
Shearing contractor Mike Morgan operated between Amberley, Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs and said there was urgency to get work completed as winter and early season lambing approached, but there could be a shortage of shearers if travel restrictions were not relaxed in the coming weeks.
“From now on, it’s a busy time of year for the next three to four months. In Waiau we need to get things done before it gets cold and the snow gets to them.
“We usually get shearers and shed hands from the North Island, but they can’t come at the moment, so we’ve got to work with what we’ve got.
“We will get through May, but in June it will become a problem.”
Mr Morgan said fly-strike was an issue, meaning there was an urgency to get sheep shorn and many Corriedale ewes are shorn annually in May.
“They’ve got 12 months of wool on them, so you can’t really leave them any longer.”