DESPITE THE ongoing need for social distancing, flock masters have been assured their sheep will be shorn this year, with an new industry checklist produced to ensure UK shearers, wool handlers and farmers work in partnership to protect the safety and welfare of the sheep and individuals involved.

Most years, in excess of 150 shearers fly into the UK to assist in taking the wool off the backs of the country's 15million breeding ewe flock, but with the pandemic continuing, huge question marks remain as to whether these specialist operators will want to leave their home country or be able to get flights.

It is estimated that such shearers, most of whom are from New Zealand and Australia, will shear up to 20% of the UK flock. In case they are unable to attend, the industry is aiming to make better use of its homegrown shearing workforce through better co-ordination and collaboration between British Wool, the National Sheep Association and the National Association of Agricultural Contractors

“We have been working together with industry partners to provide support to farmers, shearers and contractors for the season ahead," said Gareth Jones, head of producer marketing at British Wool. "The outcome and response from the industry so far has been fantastic, as a large number of shearers, wool handlers and contractors have already listed their details on the Shearing Register. With the process of connecting people across the UK underway, these new measures aim to keep everyone involved in shearing safe, by using the Shearing Checklist.”

"Shearing has already started in parts of Kent, Suffolk and Hampshire, but once these sheep have been shorn, it is hoped such shearers will be able to move north as the season progresses, while shearers in the north could travel south before their busy season gets going," said Mr Jones.

NAAC chief executive Jill Hewitt added: “We probably won't have enough shearers this year, but we are still waiting to hear what will happen with the overseas shearers and we are hoping to get a few in from America.

"There is no logistical reason as to why they can't come, the problem is more whether they will be able to get back home when their countries are under strict lockdown, but things are changing all the time. Shearing will inevitably be slower this year but risks must not be taken, and co-operation, collaboration and patience will be vital and the sheep will get shorn," said Ms Hewitt.

"We are likely to have a shortage of shearers and careful planning will be essential to make certain that, when shearers are on-farm, the process of handling sheep and shearing is efficient and that everyone works together to make the process run as smoothly as possible.”


News from trusted and credible sources is essential at all times, but especially now as the coronavirus pandemic impacts on many aspects of the farming industry and rural life. To make sure you stay informed during this difficult time, our online coverage of the crisis is free for everyone to access.

However, producing The Scottish Farmer's unrivalled business reporting, opinion and features still costs money and, as our traditional revenue streams falter, we need your support to sustain our quality journalism.

To help us get through this, we’re asking readers to take a digital subscription to The Scottish Farmer. You can sign up now for just £2 for 2 months.

If you choose to sign up, we’ll offer a faster loading, advert-light experience and access to a digital version of the print product every week. Click here to help The Scottish Farmer:

Thank you, and stay safe.