Shearer shortage woes

A SHORTAGE of shearers continues to be a concern for Tasmania’s wool industry as the sector struggles to attract younger people.

Travel restrictions imposed because of the Covid pandemic exposed the shortage of shearers within the state which is also driving up the cost of labor and wool production.

With an aging workforce, the wool industry is grappling with trying to attract new people.

A lack of funding for crucial shearer training programs is another hurdle the industry is facing.

Director of Wool Solutions Rob Calvert said that the shortage is partly because shearing is not seen as a favourable career for younger people.

“It’s really important as an industry that we encourage the survival for this career path because it’s definitely a means to a wonderful lifestyle and a way to earn good money,” Mr Calvert said.

“It’s not particularly difficult to train shearers provided you have the right people and resources to do so.”

Mr Calvert said while the critical shearer shortage seen during Covid had now eased, the industry still needs more shearers and wool handlers.

He said the focus needs to be on creating a more sustainable workforce going forward.

“You could easily identify the average age of shearers going up similar to the average age of farmers also going up,” he said.

“So, unless we can encourage young people into it then we are going to have issues down the track.”

He said the problem with not having enough shearers is that it also drives the total cost of labor in the sheds, as wool handlers and wool classers are paid per day.

“You pay the same to shear the actual sheep because shearers get paid per sheep,” Mr Calvert said.

“But if it takes an extra week to shear them then that’s an extra week of labour for all the shed staff, not including the shearers.”

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association Wool Council Chair, Charles Downie said Australian Wool Innovation has invested significantly in the industry through education and training.

However, a lack of State Government funding to support the training programs was now the problem.

“The challenge within Tasmania has been that in the last 12 months State Government funding to run the novice shearer school has run out, which is the entry point for people to enter the shearer industry,” Mr Downie said.

A wool training and advisory group has been formed in Tasmania in an effort to address the issues.

Through the formation of the group Mr Downie said they will be able to create conversation with the State government and attract support to facilitate more industry training for pathways into shearing.