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John's Shear Passion Is No Turkey

As we head into the 2018 shearing season, British Wool talks to John Malseed, a passionate shearer from Devon.

John is typical of the new breed of British shearer who has started to make an impact on the world of shearing in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres, showing renewed interest, and a high level of experience and skill fuelled by enthusiasm and training from mentors and courses run by British Wool.

John, 23, lives and works alongside his father on their twelve-hundred acres of rented ground at Frenchbeer Farm near Chagford in Devon on - a typical Dartmoor hill farm. Running 400 head of sheep and 100 sucklers, in recent years the farm has diversified and today is also home to 4000 Christmas turkeys.

From being a young child, he helped at home, wool-handling during shearing time, until he started his shearing career at 17. 

John was encouraged to attend his first British Wool shearing course through Devon Young Farmers. He felt, as a farmer’s son, it was a skill that had to be learnt and an opportunity not to be missed.  Securing his Blue Seal on his first course sparked his interest and has since gone on to achieve both Bronze and Gold Seals. He has also taken up the opportunity to attend several British Wool advanced and refresher courses. All these courses have been held at Totnes and Okehampton in his home county of Devon.

John believes that ongoing training and development is vital to success, adding: “You need to ensure that you are always learning, as this is the only way that you will progress your skills for both professional and competitive shearing.  On the British Wool courses, you do not just learn from the trainers, you also learn from the other people on the course.”

Today he shears annually, from the end of April until the end of June, shearing for farmers across the South. He adds: “People know I shear and work is generated by word of mouth, with many contractors just needing an additional pair of hands and shears to help on their big days.”

John also shears all the sheep at home and as he says: “This is the only day of the year when I don’t get paid for shearing.”

Like so many young shearers, he has spent time shearing in both New Zealand and Australia. This year he is hoping to go to Scotland to shear in some of the Scottish competitions, so if anyone knows of any opportunities he is keen to hear from them.


John’s competitive shearing career started when Sam Bullingham, who he was working with, took him along to a competitive shearing event. This was the start, and his shearing journey has produced several highlights. “Probably the most important for me was making the final at the North Island Championship in New Zealand in the Intermediates, in 2016.”

His nickname on the competitive circuits is LongJohn – he is 6ft 7in tall.

His record for the most sheared in eight hours was set this season in New Zealand, when he sheared a total of 342 sheep. His favourite sheep to shear is Romney’s, as it has good combing. The most challenging is the Dorset. He describes them as: “Not sheep with the best of temperaments!”

For John, competitive shearing is also about enjoying the shows, making and meeting friends, learning about skills and the equipment and how to use it. He loves the camaraderie and is especially complimentary about the shearing commentators – who he says: “are in a class of their own.”

He has his goals and hopes this season to do well in all the competitions he enters. Longer term, he has his shears set on winning an Open Title.

The person who he would like to give him a lesson in shearing, would have to be New Zealander Chas Tohiariki: “Because he has such an easy style of shearing and knows his stuff when it comes to gear.”

John’s advice to other shearers is: “It really is important to learn to shear correctly, and you must listen. By attending British Wool courses and competitions, you will learn from some of the finest shearers in the UK.”

He adds: “I would also encourage people to get involved with the shows, watch, learn and compete and generally talk to people. They are all like-minded.”

Colin MacGregor Head of Shearing from British Wool said, “John is a progressive young shearer and I am very pleased to see that he acknowledges the importance of training for both professional and competitive shearing. Attending courses is an ideal way to gain skill, as well as meet others in the industry.”

“As an agricultural co-operative representing around 40,000 wool producers, British Wool has consistently prioritised training and knowledge transfer. Our training scheme is internationally renowned as being one of the best shearing training schemes in the world. We have 60 active instructors in the UK, including many national champions. Our courses, held on host farms across the UK from late April to the end of July, offer all shearers, of any age, the chance to learn more about their trade and advance their skills.”

Anyone interested in attending one of the British Wool courses can find out more by visiting to register for a course and pay online (10% on line discount). You can also find British Wool on Twitter and Facebook - @britishwoolfarm.


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John's Shear Passion Is No Turkey
John's love of sheep began at a young age John's love of sheep began at a young age
John Malseed competing at the Great Yorkshire Show John Malseed competing at the Great Yorkshire Show