SCOTTISH competitors have shone on the sheep shearing stage for many a year and won some of the top accolades in the sport at home and abroad. 

Competition at the top is fierce, but when it comes to one of Scotland’s finest shearers, you’d struggle to meet a more humble man than Gavin Mutch. 

Originally from Forgue, near Huntly, but now living in New Zealand since marrying his wife Pip and starting a family, Gav has secured many of the top titles on home soil and became the first shearer from outside of New Zealand to win the prestigious Golden Shears competition at Masterton back in 2015. 

“The Goldies are something every shearer aims for, but I never really thought I’d do it so it took a long time to sink in,” said Gav of the win that confirmed his status as a world class shearer.

“You have to be on top of your game but I’d injured my shoulder a month before so my preparation wasn’t exactly the usual in the run up to a competition,” he added. 

It’s no surprise he’s made this far as shearing runs in the Mutch family blood. He used to help out with his dad’s shearing run, which was started by his grand-father, for a number of years to help him pay his way through a degree in agriculture. He was shearing alongside a few New Zealanders who convinced him that it he wanted to shear properly, he’d have to go to New Zealand. So that’s exactly what he did, landing work with Taihape’s Stu Munro who kept him on the right track and within a few months of competing at shows he was hooked. 

“I got lucky with good instructors and won my very first competition so it kind of snowballed from there,” Gav said. “Competing is a bit of a disease really – you spend every day at work practising for competitions but it’s the sheer thrill of being up on stage and trying to win that gets me.”

He rose through the ranks quickly, spending just one year as a junior before skipping the intermediate section altogether. After two years as a senior, he made it in to open competitions and in to his first open final at the world championships in Edinburgh in 2003. It wasn’t until 2008 that he had his first big win with the national lamb title at the Western Shears in Raglan, New Zealand. Since then, his biggest wins include the world championship title in Masterton in 2012 and the team title with Hamish Mitchell at the worlds held in Gorey, Ireland, in 2014.

He’s achieved some of his best results at home too, winning the open and National competitions at the Highland three times apiece and was the first competitor in eight years to win both titles in the same year at last year’s event. The Blackface Shearing Championships, at Lochearnhead, is another which brings in good results for Gavin, and he’s won there a couple of times too. 

Switching between the Kiwi and British styles is the real test of a shearer’s skill, however. While finals tend to be much quicker in the UK, the technical aspect is much more difficult in New Zealand due to sheep with more wool requiring the shearer to be mentally sharper. 

“There’s also a lot of depth in the field in New Zealand,” added Gav. “In Britain you can usually tell who’s going to make an open final but in New Zealand there’s 10 or 12 that could easy make it so you need to push that bit harder.”

Shearing alongside some of the greats has also spurred him on with old-time Scottish legends, Tom Wilson and Geordie Bayne, being some of the first to impress Gav. Since then, it’s shearing alongside, and often blow for blow, fellow Scotsman Hamish Mitchell as well as several Kiwi shearers, that pushes him on. 

He’s a quiet man when shearing’s not on his mind, but take a look at Gavin before he treads the boards at a competition and you see a steely determination. 

“You need to be mentally prepared before shearing in a competition. I’ll probably know before a final if I’ll do well or not depending on how I’m feeling and how focussed I am. But I’m lucky that I seem to be able to rise to the occasion when I need to,” he said, adding that nothing compares to representing Scotland and putting on the kilt before the results are in.

“As for young competitors, go to every competition you can – you’ll probably get beaten at most but it makes you much more rounded and gives you the ability to shear anything,” advised Gav, who once competed at 40 to 45 events each year between New Zealand and Britain. 

For now, he is nursing another shoulder injury and taking a bit of time out of shearing to stay at home with Pip and the four kids. On their Taranaki farm on the North Island, which numbers just short of 1000 acres, they run 1400 Romneys for the meat market as well as around 125 Hereford cross Friesian cows. 

He may have won the majority of titles there are out there but, injuries permitting, Gavin has his eye on the next prize and wouldn’t mind adding another world title to his belt.