Monday, September 28

Shearing Tales...

Just like with taxation a statesman shears sheep and a politician skins them. Whether it is a bush ballad, Banjo Paterson or Tom Robert’s art, shearing is part of Aussie folklore and psyche.

In mid September we sheared our 490 first cross ewes – 7 bales of Daramalan branded AAA FX, 2 of AAA BKN (broken) and one of dirty bits and pieces – and the 89 Sylvia Vale rams that will be sold in December. The ewes took two shearers (admittedly Boozer and T-Bone were gold medalists at Condobolin Show) ten hours and the rams took Butch (no mean shearer himself) two days.

The artist Tom Roberts described shearing as “noble and worthy enough if I could express its meaning and spirit”. He enjoyed the “quick running..subdued hum of fast working… the rhythmic click..lit warm with the reflection of the Australian sunlight”.

There is an amazing feeling of mateship in the shed and I can identify with the feeling of rhythm as shorn fleeces fly onto the table, are sorted and cleaned, thrown to the bins and then pressed into 180kilogram bales. It’s hard work and high energy but really worthwhile and demands full participation.

My favourite shearing tale (that I can tell here) is of the shearer who bet a city visitor to the shed that he could shear a sheep blindfolded. Bet taken the shearer tied an old cloth around the sheep’s eyes and sheared it. Later, just to prove the point, the shearer did shear a sheep with the blindfold on him.

So, here are some figures from the Daramalan shed this year. At $2.35 a sheep it will take 14 years for our shearers to make their next million. At 3 metres from the catching pen to the stand each shearer will have walked about 1500 kilometres on their trip to a million bucks. That’s near enough the distance from Sydney to Adelaide and half of that is walking backwards with a 60 kilogram sheep in your hands. A shearer will have lifted 26,000 MT and 430,000 sheep, which if put end to end would stretch 400 km or Sydney to Dubbo. Of the 14 years the shearer will have spent about 8 of them bent double with shears in hand. No wonder they do such an amazing and skilled job!!

(The first image is the Tom Robert's Shearing the Rams from the National Gallery of Victoria collection. The second is of Butch shearing a Sylvia Vale ram and the third and last is an oil by Roy Dalgarno - amazing similarities!)

No comments: