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Meet the Shearing Instructor - Gavin Stevens

My name is Gavin Stevens, I’m 55 years old and have lived around Tiverton in Devon all my life.

I started helping my father shear our own sheep when I was just thirteen years old, then joined our local Young Farmers Club, just for the shearing, then at the age of sixteen I put an advert in the local newspaper for shearing and the work started coming in. As I was not old enough to drive, my parents would drop me off at the farm with my shearing gear and an old two speed motor which was tied up to the roof and off I would go with the farmer catching the sheep in a big pen.

I shore 800 sheep the first year and this was the start of my career without going on a British Wool course, as I didn’t know they existed. After a few years of struggling, I discovered the British Wool courses and went on one at Totnes with Alan Derryman and a man called Murray Christie (I think) from New Zealand and how those two days changed my life. I really learnt heaps coming away with a gold seal, regretting that I hadn’t done it sooner. I started doing competitions at the shows and did well getting to the open class in four years. I have shorn in New Zealand, Australia and Europe and employed lots of shearers from all over the world for many years building my shearing contracting business up to eighty thousand sheep a year at its peak.

I’ve been a shearing instructor and a BISCA (British Isle Shearing Competitions Association) judge for about fifteen years and thoroughly enjoy it, seeing the up-and-coming shearers from the start. It is so much of an advantage to have professional training right from the very start of your shearing career. Even if you are not intending to be a full-time sheep shearer shearing sixty thousand sheep a year, if you have sheep or look after sheep you will need to know the basics of shearing and using the equipment which is what you will learn from the experienced British Wool instructors on the courses.

The courses are arranged for the complete beginners who have never shorn a sheep to advanced courses for experienced shearers. For the shearers who have learnt the basics it is best to go away from the course and shear sheep with what you have learnt then come back next year and learn more, as it is not possible to remember everything in just two days. Some of the best shearers go on a course every year, as you will always learn a little bit more to make shearing easier and quicker and more efficient with your blows. Shearers really need to gain the silver award before they attend an advanced course to gain the most from it.

British Wool do a great job for the shearing industry from the courses they provide using experienced instructors who themselves have been shearers in their time and the BISCA who have trained Judges for all the competitions.

The best advice I can give is to do as many courses as you can and then always try to shear with someone who is better than you, as they have probably done more courses.

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Meet the Shearing Instructor - Gavin Stevens