THERE was movement at “Kellhaven” for the word had passed around that the shearing and wool handling school was in town.
For the past fortnight Walbundrie farmer Leo Kelleher’s shearing shed has been a hive of activity with 16 students learning the art of shearing.
Under the watchful eye of teacher, Richard Leahy, students travelled from as far away as from Mildura, Temora, Leeton, and Wangaratta for the two-week course.
Mr Leahy is a former shearer with over 40 years’ experience and has been teaching shearing and wool handling for the past 17.
“We have 16 kids in the class which is probably about five too many but what do you do?”, Mr Leahy said.
“We actually had 35 wanting to do this course, so the next school we do in July is full already.”
Mr Leahy said he got immense satisfaction from seeing kids from the course go on and have careers in the wool industry.
“The satisfaction of seeing these people here employed and making a good living is what motivates me,” he said.
“We had a young bloke who called in to see us today that done the school at a similar time last year.
“Just before Christmas he was constantly shearing 120 adult merinos a day which is just a bit under 12 months.
“A good shearer does 120 to 140 a day, and gets $3.13 a sheep, so you can make a good living.”
Nearly a third of the class comprised females, which is not unusual according to Mr Leahy.
“It’s a growing trend, females come to learn a bit about the shearing but they also like to learn a lot about the wool because wool handlers can also make good money,” he said.
“Then if you progress in the industry and become a wool classer that’s a really good job.
“There is still a lot of girls locally that are shearing and more importantly are pretty damn good at it.”
Madison Gladstone, 17, from Beechworth was one of the females who was looking to gain experience in the industry.
“It’s been great, I’m loving it and it’s such a great opportunity,” Ms Gladstone said.
“Shearing is definitely an art and making sure you have the right technique and positioning are the hardest things to get right.
“I probably don’t want to be a full-time shearer but want to be a farm hand and being able to shear looks good on your CV.
“I did my Cert II in agriculture last year and am doing my Cert III this year.
“The past fortnight was the first time I have ever used a hand piece and I’m fairly proud of how much I’ve learnt.”
James Mirams, 24, from Albury was one of the older students at the course and was looking for a potential career change.
“I’ve been working in the sheds as a roustabout and pressing wool for a bit over a year now, but I’m keen to give shearing a crack and see how I go,” Mr Mirams said.
“I’ve learnt a lot in two weeks, it was a bit frustrating the first week but I’m improving.
“The job is not only physically challenging but also mentally, when the sheep is fighting you and won’t do what you want it to, you have to be able to keep your cool.
“It’s been a good challenge and rewarding at the same time but shearing is a lot harder than it looks.”
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