Students show off sheer skill as they shear school flock

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WA College of Agriculture - Morawa sheep and cattle technical officer David Mills with Year 12 students Kane Smallwood, 17, Tyrel Fumagalli, 17, Jamie Sadler, 16, and Aiden Karruth, 17.
Camera IconWA College of Agriculture - Morawa sheep and cattle technical officer David Mills with Year 12 students Kane Smallwood, 17, Tyrel Fumagalli, 17, Jamie Sadler, 16, and Aiden Karruth, 17. Credit: Countryman

Dedicated students from WA College of Agriculture — Morawa are taking on the incredible task of shearing all of the school’s 1050 sheep for the first time.

With a scarcity of contractors and a growing number of students capable of shearing up to 12 sheep a run, the school decided to keep this year’s annual shearing in house.

The 1050 head flock is made up of about 900 Merinos and 150 first cross Merino and Border Leicester ewes.

Year 12 student Jamie Sadler, 16, was one of a handful of students in the shed last week and was busy working on her shearing, wool handling and wool classing skills.

The young guns were tackling ewes aged between two and three years old, with plans to complete about 100 head a day.

“Every day working stock is never the same, there is always something different going on,” Jamie said. “They are high maintenance so they keep you pretty busy.”

With a keen interest in sheep, Jamie is studying a Certificate II in Agriculture and a Certificate II in Automotive Engineering.

WA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Jamie Sadler in the school's shearing shed.
Camera IconWA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Jamie Sadler in the school's shearing shed. Credit: Countryman

She first learnt to shear during a week-long training session with Australian Wool Innovation shearer trainer Mark Stanton last year.

Jamie said one of the biggest things she had learnt in the shed was that “every sheep is different” and there was a lot of work involved.

“Shearers that do this every day are so strong,” she said. “To get up at 5am every morning and do this, they are amazing. It takes a lot of muscle.”

WA College of Agriculture — Morawa sheep and cattle technical officer David Mills said the school had plenty of “keen kids” who had stepped up to the plate.

He said the Year 10, 11 and 12 students were rotating their time spent in the shed each week.

Some were so eager they were “lining up” to volunteer to come and help after school.

WA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Aiden Karruth, 17, tosses a fleece.
Camera IconWA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Aiden Karruth, 17, tosses a fleece. Credit: Countryman

The students spent a week with Mr Stanton last year and will have another session with him this year.

“Normally we would get a contractor in to belt out some sheep numbers for us, but this year we are doing the whole lot,” Mr Mills said.

“It is going really well, the kids have really stepped up. We have kids that without too much effort can do 12 sheep a run.

“We think that is pretty good for kids that six months ago had never held a handpiece.”

Mr Mills — who started at the school 14 months ago — said the trick to teaching the students was having both patience and confidence in the students’ ability.

“The students that have more experience really mentor those that don’t have a lot, which is so good to see,” he said.

“We take it steady and they build confidence as they get along. Last year we had a lot of kids that hadn’t held a handpiece, and now they just need some tidying up.”

While tackling all of the 1050 sheep themselves was a big task, Mr Mills said he was confident the students were up to the task.

“We thought we had kids that could get to the stage of shearing those numbers,” he said.

“We can say ‘today we will get 70 done’, whereas previously we would have thought we were doing well to get 20 done each day.”

Mr Mills said not all of of the students aspired to be shearers, but the skills they learned on-site would prove invaluable anyway.

“There will be a small percentage that go into shearing, but some want to do wool handling or wool classing because the money is good,” he said.

“But my way of thinking is that shearing is a good way to get them to broaden their outlook, and give them a new experience.”

WA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Aiden Karruth, 17, in the shearing shed.
Camera IconWA College of Agriculture - Morawa Year 12 student Aiden Karruth, 17, in the shearing shed. Credit: Countryman
Camera IconCredit: Kane Smallwood

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