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Shearing courses provide essential skills for young sheep enthusiasts
Feb '09
Tony Willox (right) winning the NSA Scotsheep Young Shepherd of the Year trophy in 2008
Tony Willox (right) winning the NSA Scotsheep Young Shepherd of the Year trophy in 2008
The long-awaited "upturn" in sheep values is firing enthusiasm among up and coming shepherds - and according to a past winner of the Young Shepherd of the Year competition, learning how to shear sheep to a high standard is a skill that's sure to be in demand in the future.

Tony Willox, 25, from Aberdeenshire started shearing sheep when he was a teenager on the family farm Rothienorman but says he really mastered his shearing skills after he attended training courses organised by the British Wool Marketing Board.

And with bookings now being taken for this season's series of courses being held nationwide, Tony reckons young people determined to make a success of a career with sheep should consider how much they could learn from some expert shearing tuition.

"I've been shearing sheep for as long as I can remember but I'd really recommend anyone with a serious commitment to making a future for themselves in the sheep industry to go on a wool board shearing course.

"You don't just learn how to shear correctly and more efficiently but the courses stop you getting into bad habits that can be hard to break if you don't deal with them at an early stage," says Tony.

As well as running his own flock of sheep, Tony is currently putting all his sheep management skills to the test as a freelance shepherd - skills that certainly impressed the judges when he won the 2008 Scotsheep Young Shepherd of the Year title.

Although now able to shear 30 sheep an hour - a rate that he hopes will bring him some success in shearing competitions this year - he says shearing sheep to a high standard is not just about "speed".

"The British Wool Marketing Board courses aren't just about getting the wool off the sheep as fast as you can. It's about making the best possible job if it and doing it efficiently and professionally.

"At the end of a course you really start to see what you can achieve and it gives you a real pride in your work."

Tony couldn't even guess how many thousands of sheep he'll be shearing this year but from the beginning of June to early August he'll be joining the increasing number of young Scottish shearers making a name for themselves with a skill that is certainly no longer the no preserve of the visiting Kiwi shearing gangs.

"Sheep farming looks like it's heading into a new era and young people with high standards of stockmanship skills will be needed," says Tony.

British Wool Marketing Board

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