April 30, 2004
April 30, 2004 -- So many sheep shearers in Australia have left the trade that the wool industry Down Under is referring to the shortage as a crisis situation. Less than 7,000 shearers remain today from a workforce that totaled more than 30,000 in the 1980s.
Low wages, poor working conditions and better-paying jobs are cited as reasons for the rapid decline.
?Work conditions are Neanderthal ? we?re still in the dark ages,? said shearer Ross Abbey, in a News Telegraph United Kingdom article. ?Young blokes do the job for a week and then they can?t go on because their back?s knackered. I?m trying to get out.?
The country?s 45,000 wool producers are urging drastic action to ensure a sufficient supply of shearers for the country?s 130 million sheep.
The United States is experiencing a shearer shortage as well. The American Sheep Industry Association?s Wool Council began addressing the issue in 2003 by establishing a Shearing Task Force. The group?s first goal: the compilation of a shearer/shearing crew database, which is underway. Also to be addressed in the near future: Shearer education and training, particularly in the areas of wool packaging, labeling and contamination.
Staff contact: Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ext. 29