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Sharpening up clipping skills
THERE was no shortage of takers for a British Wool Marketing Board sheep-shearing course in Teesdale.
Instructors Richard Schofield – the board’s Shearing Personality of the Year 2011 – and Bill Mason helped 14 young farmers sharpen up their clipping skills.
The two-day course was organised by Julia Stephenson of UTASS – Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services – and hosted by Kath and Richard Iceton, of East Thorngarth Hill, Baldersdale.
The couple supplied the sheep, buildings and made a donation to the cost of the training.
Each place cost £180 plus VAT, but with their contribution and another covering six places made by John Warren ABP Ltd, Hamsterley, each trainee received a reduced bill.
Mr Schofield, from Skipton, and Mr Mason, from Clitheroe, are among a team of six farmers and exshearers who lead training courses across the North of England.
Contractors charge an average £1 to £1.20 per sheep so the bill soon mounts.
“If they can clip themselves, it can save them money and allows them to clip when they want to rather than the contractor telling them when they will do it,” said Mr Schofield.
The second day of the course was a good example when heavy showers put into question whether any further clipping could go ahead – a wet fleece is not easy to clip.
“Even if they just trim the belly wool when they go to market it can be worth an extra 60p, so 100 could be worth an extra £60,” said Mr Schofield.
Although last week’s course mainly involved sons and daughters from farming families, there is demand from people who just have a couple of pet sheep.
“We’ve had policemen, nurses, accountants – just about all walks of life – learning how to clip their own sheep,” said Mr Schofield.
Michael Moralee, 20, from Blackburn Farm, Langley Park, near Durham, is from a beef, sheep and arable farm. They currently employ contractors to clip their 500 sheep, but Michael hopes to be able to take on some of that work himself.
Matthew Watson, 18, and his brother, Thomas, 16, of Baal Hill Farm, Wolsingham, were both on the course. Their father, Bruce, clips their 800 sheep on his own but they want to give him a hand.
The two days were a refresher course for Matthew but it was first time for Thomas, who starts at Askham Bryan College, York, in the autumn.
A lot of the training is to do with technique.
“If you get them balanced right the sheep seem to lie quite well,” said Thomas.
Joanne Metcalf, 24, of Barningham House, Barningham, and Becky Dobson, 16, of Harehope Farm, Frosterley, were enjoying the course.
“I came last year but needed some practice,” said Joanne. We have 700 sheep at home and dad clips them all. He’s pretty quick but I want to be able to help him.”
Mr and Mrs Iceton hosted the same course last year. They have about 900 sheep and provided a proportion for clipping over the two days. Mrs Iceton said: “We wanted to help UTASS training. We like to support local groups and they support the local farming community.
“We have three boys so it is good to be able to ring them up to see what courses they can go on – we all need certificates these days.”
UTASS – whose work has been described as “magnificent and outstanding” by Prince Charles – is based in Middleton-in-Teesdale and can be contacted on 01833 641010, email: email@example.com or visit utass.org.
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