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Training Brings Improvement and Opportunities

As British Wool launch their 2018 courses and we head into the new shearing season we talk to one of Wales’s most progressive young shearers’, 23-year Lloyd Rees from Tynewydd Farm near Brecon in Powys.

In recent years, British shearers have seen increased global attention with a number of World and UK record shearing attempts taking place.  This has led to an unprecedented interest in the skill of shearing with the industry seeing a renewed confidence, and competence that is recognised and sought after from around the World.

Lloyd Rees from Brecon has first-hand experience of this is.  Lloyd already has several major achievements to his name at the young age of 23, winning the Intermediate Championship at the Royal Welsh in 2014 and the Seniors Championship in 2016. This was followed by a place on the Welsh Development team and he hopes to repeat his achievements in 2018.

Shearing has certainly presented many opportunities to Lloyd, who farms at home with his parents, farming 470 Breeding ewes and 80 hoggets. He’s travelled extensively over the last few years, and with world recognised qualifications and successes, has taken advantage of every opportunity, now shearing for 10 months a year. He strongly believes training has played a huge role in improving his skills and allowed him to follow his dream of being a professional shearer.

Lloyd has always had a passion for shearing, and credits both his grandfathers, his father and his uncles for his interest having seen them shear from a young age.  At 16, the first British Wool course he attended was with Greg Evans near Llandrindod Wells where he secured his Blue Seal. Following this course, Lloyd progressed through numerous British Wool courses at Harry and George Gilbert’s farm near Hay on Wye.  “Hywel Jones was my instructor.  He helped me massively to achieve Gold level and to progress my skills.” However, believing that you can always learn, Lloyd regularly attends refresher courses to keep up to date with any new developments .

“Every course has taught me something, and I think it’s hugely important to continue training to improve your technique and understanding. If you want to be a good at shearing your own sheep, attend a course so you can learn to shear in a basic fashion. If you want to compete, it’s vital you improve and develop skills and, of course, speed so you need to continue learning.

“Go with an open mind – often people may just take the advice from family members.  My grandfather was a British Wool instructor and things have changes dramatically, so whatever advice you receive, your British Wool instructors will know more. And that’s a huge asset to the courses – they give you access to a range of professionals with lots of experience to share with you. This knowledge is not available from anywhere else and it really helps you develop as a shearer.

“A classic example of this is when I was in the intermediate and senior grades and was helped by Tom Wilson, the former world individual and team shearing champion who is known throughout the world. What a privilege to have his wisdom and advice for my development.”

Lloyd also credits travel for gaining valuable experience in shearing techniques. “I was shearing around 250 sheep a day in the UK and in 2012 took the opportunity to go to New Zealand for their shearing season. Off I went with great keenness and enthusiasm assuming I would pick up my shears and do the same over there.” However, his enthusiasm was quickly thwarted, as he couldn’t’ believe how much wool New Zealand Sheep carried, and he only managed to shear 96. “I was heartbroken, but it was a very valuable lesson and it gave me a renewed determination to improve. Things did improve and when I left I could shear up to 300 a day was quite happy.”

Several years and many seasons later and Lloyd has adapted to the New Zealand sheep, managing to shear an impressive 601 lambs in a nine-hour day in New Zealand in Nonoriri, North lsland last year. “That was an incredible day and my personal highlight in my career so far. But it should be said that is not a typical day! Sheep in the UK are faster to shear, however we shear less a day in the UK as the flock size usually aren’t big enough to do big numbers.”

Last year, Lloyd sheared over 33,500 sheep in New Zealand and 10,000 in the UK. “It’s great that I have a career in the industry I love. I could never have imagined the experiences it would offer me; I will also be in Switzerland this year shearing for the first time.

“Competitions also give me the opportunity to meet likeminded people – there’s great camaraderie whenever you are competing, and we have a lot of fun.”

In advising anyone beginning their shearing career, Lloyd says, “Maximise the opportunities provided by British Wool and complete as many courses as you can. You can always learn – at the moment I am really interested to learn more about wool handling on farm, and how that can benefit the farmer financially. It’s important I understand wool throughout the whole process to ensure my shearing techniques are in the best interest of the customer – this involves knowing how the wool will be marketed.  I think this need for a broader understanding is now widely accepted and it’s good to see courses adapting to modern requirements.”

Going forward, Lloyd has set his sights on the shearing in the World Championship. “That’s the ultimate goal – but I know there’s some fierce competition out there so will need to focus my efforts and hope I can earn my place.”

Colin MacGregor British Wool’s Head of Shearing said, “Lloyd has achieved an amazing amount of success in what is a short career to date and I am thrilled he acknowledges the role of training in his achievements.

“As an agricultural cooperative 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 farms across the UK from late April to the end of July, offer all shearers of any age, the opportunity to learn more about their trade and advance their skills.”

Anyone interested in participating in one of the British Wool courses should visit the British Wool website to register for a course and benefit from a 10% online booking discount. You can also find British Wool on Twitter and Facebook @britishwoolfarm.

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Training Brings Improvement and Opportunities
Lloyd Rees from Tynewydd Farm near Brecon in Powys Lloyd Rees from Tynewydd Farm near Brecon in Powys
Lloyd Rees shearing in Switzerland Lloyd Rees shearing in Switzerland
Lloyd Rees shearing on farm with his cousin Jonny Rees Lloyd Rees shearing on farm with his cousin Jonny Rees