Advanced Training for Shearers
LISA SURBER, PH.D.
ASI Raw Wool Consultant
Even experienced shearers need to continue to develop their skills, which led to the creation of the Advanced Shearing School held at VanWell Livestock in Watertown, S.D. in mid-June.
The school – hosted by Trevor, Travis and Stephanie Vanwell – began June 12. Organizers included Loren Opstedahl (of South Dakota and an ASI Wool Council member) and Mike Hagens (of North Dakota). They hosted Michael Pora – a renowned Australian Wool Innovation shearing coach and professional shearer from New South Wales, Australia.
The school was designed with three distinct sections during the week-long program. The first section was an advanced school for professional shearers and shearing school instructors. These shearers represented multiple large shearing crews. Individually, these shearers will shear approximately 150,000 head of sheep annually. When combined with their crews, they shear approximately 300,000 head of sheep each year. Additionally, they train upwards of 30 students per year.
Pora provided innovative shearing techniques to enhance the abilities of these professionals in refining not only their shearing patterns, but also their teaching skills.
Intermediate shearer sections of the school began on June 14 and again on June 16. These shearers focused on improving their shearing pattern and better tool management.
During the advanced training, Pora shared some interesting points:
• Animal welfare is a high priority. AWI shearing schools give three to four classroom hours of animal welfare training.
• AWI shearing students are required to complete and are pre-screened through three to four months of on-farm training with a sheep operation.
• The average age of the Australian shearer is 48 years old.
• AWI has a large budget for shearing training and coaching in the field.
• AWI provides strong support for shearing shows/contests.
• There is not a shortage of skilled shearers, but there is a seasonality of shearing where every shearer can find work.
• Placing of American shearers is easy if they go to Australia to work.
There was great interest in the advanced/intermediate school, and organizers hope to host future schools in multiple locations to accommodate national interest.
Students at the school included: Paul Astin, Ben Fitzpatrick, Hilary Gitzen, John Gunther, Sardis Gunther, Mark Hogendorn, George Kerr, Brian Loutt, Alex Moser, Davin Parin, Terrance Pelle, Seth Perkins, Matthew Potter, Jim Schafer, Ann Schroeder, and Timothy Wright.