Leading players in the wool and sheep industry have expressed true alarm at the oncoming shearer shortage.
It's believed no Kiwi shearers will arrive in Australia for the rest of the year due to concerns with local coronavirus outbreaks, a loss of 500 shearers, affecting crutching season.
Growers at a field day near Warren highlighted concerns, some saying it will force woolgrowers to shear only once a year. They've called on government and peak wool industry body Australian Wool Innovation to increase training and have trainees working in the wool stands now.
Cam Munro, Egelabra Merinos, Warren, said the loss of the Kiwis will "have a huge impact on shearing for spring".
"And this will make woolgrowers think hard about double shearing and possibly get back into annual shearing," he said. "I think that will be the big difference and could affect the flow to late spring, and come January-February things may tighten again."
Richard Chalker, Lach River stud, Darby's Falls, who also runs a commercial flock at Condobolin, said "we really need the Kiwis here". "They fill the gaps because we haven't got enough young shearers taking the profession on and it's something we are going to have to live with for the next few years." he said.
"We had a shearing school at home and had six learners, with two going on. We also ask contractors to put on learners in each of their sheds. Woolgrowers and contractors need to work together to have learners at least sharing a stand."
Mark Dawson, Araluen, Nyngan, said he also expected to be affected. "We just have to train more of our own shearers to take the place of the Kiwis, and what AWI is doing is very good, but I reckon it's 15 years too late."
Nick Knowles, Lechidale, Wellington, used New Zealand shearers last January for his delayed crutching program. "I use a Kiwi contractor and back in January crutching, we were four to five weeks past crutching time and had a lot of fly troubles then, so we had to shear two weeks early to fit in with the contractor because if we held off another six to eight weeks, we would have started lambing."
Tony Inder, Avondale stud, Wellington, said it may be also be a short-term problem. "I think in the short term we'll have some shortfalls, but AWI's shearing training program is brilliant, resulting in a lot of young people coming through to take up the slack in the future."
AWI's, Craig French, Program Manager, Wool Harvesting Training and Development, said AWI's Novice schools had trained 135 participants in the last 6 months. "We plan to train an additional 200 in this second 6 month period," he said.
Mr French said the AWI was currently involved in helping address the "shortage".
"AWI has increased the number of novice training schools for new entrants, particularly in NSW and it has increased funding for shearing & wool handling training therefore more availability of trainers available for Industry.
"AWI is working closely with WASIA & SCAA to meet Industry expectations and deliver best outcomes for all.
"We are working closely with RTO's and receiving added funding to run more Novice schools, particularly in NSW
"NSW novice schools in the last 6 months have trained 135 participants, we plan to train an additional 200 in this second 6 month period."
He said there was an ncrease in the number of improver schools, with these doubled from a year ago.
AWI has new initiatives to provide incentives for learner shearers and learner wool handlers with "Breaking down the Barriers" Project. This allows new entrants who go into sheds on a learners pen or on the board, to be equipped with new and effective tools for trade.
"AWI is introducing crutching workshops, ahead of a big spring we will need all the skills to assist in this shortage."
"We are working with Secondary schools to run 2 & 3 day workshops, practical & effective introductory skills for years 9 &10, helping provide a pathway for new entrants
"If anyone has any training concerns or question please contact 1800SHEARS."
Recent workshops for novice shearer and woolhandling were in Boorowa and Temora. Workshops have been recently held in Lightning Ridge and Dubbo.
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