A SHORTAGE of shearers has seen some farms fall up to five months behind, prompting calls for urgent action.
The workforce shortage is a culmination of Covid-19 travel restrictions preventing interstate and New Zealand shearers from travelling easily, an ageing shearing workforce and a general high demand for workers across primary industries.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association acting CEO Marcus McShane said some sheds were months behind, with 14 or 15 months between shearing instead of the usual 12 months.
TFGA president Ian Sauer said last year some farms were shearing right up to lambing which was almost unheard of.
“The shearers are getting older and there’s more of them exiting the industry, there are sheep carrying around another four or five months’ worth of wool,” Mr Sauer said.
“Last year we know there were shearers crutching and shearing right up to lambing, they just couldn’t get the shearers, and you’ve only got to have a week of wet weather that slows up shearing everywhere.”
“That shearing right up to the point of lambing, sheep with too much wool on them, that’s leaning towards potentially adverse animal welfare outcomes, through no fault of the farmer, they are doing everything they can,” Mr McShane said.
The TFGA says it’s committed to being part of the solution.
“TFGA will work with other people to do shearer training, shed hand training, we need those visas so we can open up so we can get more people into that shearing industry,” Mr Sauer said.
The labour shortage issue is just one of several key priorities for the TFGA ahead of next month’s Federal election.
The peak body released a Call to Action that includes nine key election priorities. For Tasmania the focus is squarely on addressing workforce issues as well as ongoing and significant funding for irrigation projects.
A total of $670 million dollars has been requested across four irrigation projects.
“What we are doing with irrigation has been an absolute gamechanger,” Mr McShane said.
“It’s reinvigorated communities, it’s building drought resilience, just given farmers so many more options.
Other priorities for farmers include a reduction in red tape, ongoing land tax exemptions and recognition of their role in the forestry sector.
“This is not just a money grab of a peak organisation,” Mr Sauer said.
“They all have a value adding component and they are serious issues for the farming community.”
Mr Sauer said farmers were swamped with red and green tape and were pushing for a more streamlined approach to managing data and quality assurance systems.
“Some farmers have three QA systems on their farms because the different industry sectors aren’t talking to each other,” he said.
“TFGA members have been saying we are sick of drowning in red tape and green tape trying to fix it.”
The peak body has put a six-month timeframe on action over workforce constraints.
“It’s an urgent problem that does need addressing quickly, we are in April now we are heading towards next fruit growing season, we have a little bit of time to sort this out, heading towards spring, shearing season and then later on spring and summer fruit picking season, we have until then potentially to make a significant difference and we need a significant difference.”