Working together was key in facing Covid, shearer says

Shearing contractor Ian Lucas described this season as 'very testing at times'
Shearing contractor Ian Lucas described this season as 'very testing at times'

Shearers coming together was key to successfully completing this year's season made all the more challenging due to the Covid-19 crisis and its restrictions.

This is according to Ian Lucas, a shearing contractor based in the south east, who says the 2020 season threw up some challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Ian has been contracting for the last 20 years and has also travelled to New Zealand to undertake shearing.

As well as a shearing run of approximately 50,000 sheep, he also has his own flock of 300 ewes and buys in store lambs.

But due to the pandemic, there were concerns within the sector on shearing the UK flock as overseas shearers were not able to travel due to restrictions.

It is estimated non-UK workers usually shear about 20 percent of the UK flock.

A shearing database to link up UK shearers with farmers and contractors was subsequently launched to alleviate the problem.

Ian said this year's season was testing at times, and staffing was a problem: “I did, however, take two very good shearers, one from the north and one from Wales, who shore a lot of sheep during May.

"In addition to these two shearers, I also gave a complete beginner a job – he learnt and developed quickly, was enthusiastic and is interested in coming back next season.

“Including myself, we made up five stands this season with the Welsh shearer coming back for July and part of August, which helped a great deal.”

Reflecting overall on the season, Ian said that although it was a real challenge, shearers got through it due to the collaborative nature of the sector.

"Due to the good weather and dry summer, the earlier start to the season also made a difference," he added.

As the end of 2020 nears and with much hope on the vaccine, Ian says he hopes the sector will be able to welcome overseas shearers into the UK once again.

"This, and locally based shearers working together, supports the UK sheep sector," he explained.

"In terms of my own contracting business, as I’ve recently taken on another ‘run’, we are expanding.

"I’ve already made plans to bring in some Welsh shearers next season to support the shearing of an additional 30,000 sheep.”