‘Gun’ shearers nudging $300k a year as worker shortage dubbed ‘desperate’

Rebecca Le MayNCA NewsWire
Sheep being weighed down by too much wool can be a hazard to their welfare, so farmers are desperate for help. Supplied by NSW Farmers
Camera IconSheep being weighed down by too much wool can be a hazard to their welfare, so farmers are desperate for help. Supplied by NSW Farmers Credit: NCA NewsWire

There’s a big shortage of shearers in NSW this season, a desperate need to remove wool from bulked up sheep and a staggering amount of money on offer for those who aren’t afraid of hard work.

Shearers can easily earn up to $100,000 a year, with “guns” able to pocket a staggering $288,000 annually.

That’s based on $4 per sheep shorn, a five day week and a 48 week year, with the best shearers able to do 300 head a day.

NSW Farmers Wool Committee chair Helen Carrigan said the shearer shortage meant there was good money to be made by young people who were willing to learn.

There’s a big shortage of shearers in NSW this season, a desperate need to remove wool from bulked up sheep and a staggering amount of money on offer for those who aren’t afraid of hard work.
Camera IconShearers can easily earn up to $100,000 a year. Supplied by NSW Farmers Credit: NCA NewsWire

She estimates shearer numbers have plunged by about 30 per cent over the past decade, with factors such as drought and border closures associated with the pandemic heightening workforce challenges.

“The ‘click’ of the shears is part of our proud agricultural history and there are so many success stories of young people keen to have a go,” Ms Carrigan said.

“It can be hard work, but it’s rewarding and the pay can set the savvy saver up for a great future.

“We’re keen to see school leavers looking for a life in the bush to seriously consider becoming a shearer.”

For Cowra-based Jo Treasure, it has been a highly lucrative job.

There’s a big shortage of shearers in NSW this season, a desperate need to remove wool from bulked up sheep and a staggering amount of money on offer for those who aren’t afraid of hard work.
Camera IconIt’s tough work, no doubt about it. Supplied by NSW Farmers Credit: NCA NewsWire

The 24-year-old mainly works as a farmhand with her family’s business but has also been shearing for one day a week over the past year on average and made a pretty penny.

Ms Treasure said it has already allowed her to buy an investment property and she’s also trading sheep.

This month, she’s been shearing two days a week and tripled her usual monthly income.

“The money is there and if you have your head screwed on, you can save a lot of money,” Ms Treasure told NCA NewsWire.

There’s a big shortage of shearers in NSW this season, a desperate need to remove wool from bulked up sheep and a staggering amount of money on offer for those who aren’t afraid of hard work.
Camera IconThe Certificate III in shearing course is free for all NSW residents. Supplied by NSW Farmers Credit: NCA NewsWire

With plenty of sheds seeking shearers, you can pick and choose where you work.

“It’s pretty desperate,” Ms Treasure said of the shearer shortage.

But it’s hard work, no doubt about that, and conditions can be poor.

The sheds are often old and hot, with many farmers not doing the maintenance work they should to make it safe, Ms Treasure says.

“Most don’t have a flushing toilet,” she said.

That’s not a big problem for blokes who can just nip around the corner and pee standing up but inconvenient for the few women braving the heavily male-dominated industry.

There’s a big shortage of shearers in NSW this season, a desperate need to remove wool from bulked up sheep and a staggering amount of money on offer for those who aren’t afraid of hard work.
Camera IconSheep being weighed down by too much wool can be a hazard to their welfare, so farmers are desperate for help. Supplied by NSW Farmers Credit: NCA NewsWire

Then there’s shearing “full” sheep, who haven’t been off food and water long enough.

They pee and poo everywhere, which causes a slipping hazard, and it makes them kick, which can be dangerous.

But it’s worth it for the amazing pay, Ms Treasure says.

She plans to save up as much as she can to buy into the family business then expand the farm.

Mrs Carrigan said there was never a better time to get stuck into the trade and start making some real money, with the Certificate III in shearing course free for all NSW residents.

Originally published as ‘Gun’ shearers nudging $300k a year as worker shortage dubbed ‘desperate’

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