September 2005 - As job descriptions go it isn't bad. You get to work outside and the opportunity to travel all around the world. And the job...sheep shearing.
It has long been a mainstay at the Great Yorkshire Show, but this year farmers believe they are bucking the trend in what has previously been seen as a declining industry.
The sheep-shearing competitions always pull in the crowds, but this year has seen a dramatic rise in the number of young entrants and sheep shearers themselves are more optimistic about the future for this unique trade.
Richard Scarr, 28, works on his parent?s farm, near Askrigg, North Yorkshire, and has been sheep shearing for eight years, in a job that has taken him to places as diverse as Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.
"I like the lifestyle and I get to go traveling. Yes, its hard work but it's better than working in an office," he said.
His father is a livestock farmer, and for Scarr, shearing has become second nature.
"I decided when I left school that I was going to do this, so I did a short training course."
He believes there has been an increase in the number of young shearers emerging.
"There's more and more kids getting into it now compared to when I started and that's got to be a good thing."
There is no such thing as a typical day for shearers; they work anything between an eight-hour to 12-hour shift.
Although the work is seasonal, generally between May and August in the United Kingdom, many travel abroad to pick up work on farms.
Doug Lambie, a north Wales-based farmer, has been a sheep-shearing instructor for more than 10 years.
He believes this year's Great Yorkshire Show has highlighted ? if not a renaissance ? a certainly marked change in fortunes for the industry.
"This year has been really encouraging; we've got 30 young farmers competing whereas we would probably have only had about 10 a few years ago."
Government support and new European funding has allowed the Wool Board to run specialist five-day courses in sheep shearing.
The courses, run in Settle, are exclusive to Yorkshire and make a real difference.
"I reckon 80 percent of the young shearers here at the Great Yorkshire Show have been in this course in the last two years," he said.
"We've got as many young shearers today as we've had in 20 years. Whether they go on to become full-time sheep shearers is another matter, but it's a step in the right direction."
He says it is vital that the Wool Board continue to receive support to help produce home-grown shearers.
"We used to have a lot of Kiwis and Aussies coming over but that's stopped because the exchange rate isn't so good and we have to train our own guys.
"The roots are there now, we're starting to turn it around. I think the biggest problem we face is there still aren't enough young farmers around."
Sheep shearing has always had something of a macho image but more women are now entering competitions.
"There's no reason at all why women can't do it, physical strength doesn't matter, it's all about technique and anyone can do it," he said.
Joy Armstrong, 23, works on a farm in Menston, West Yorkshire, and has been shearing for two years now after completing a shearing course.
She said, "I work on farms so I decided to give it a go, it was just something I was interested in.
"It is hard work, but there's no reason why women can't do it."
Reprinted from the Yorkshire Post Today, United Kingdom
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