HE may only be 18-years-old but Ethan Harder has proven himself a threat to world sheep-shearing records, after mowing through 602 Merino lambs in eight hours two weeks ago.
According to the World Sheep Shearing Records Society, the official eight-hour solo shearing record for Merino lambs sits at 570, and was set in 2002 by Dwayne Black, Badgingarra.
With 15 minutes to spare, Ethan managed to unofficially break this record last Thursday on Kevin and Jane Fuchsbichler’s Bruce Rock property.
The teen has more than a decade of shearing experience, having grown up helping his parents Paul and Suzie run their Bruce Rock contracting business – Harder Shearing.
As an eight-year-old, he managed to shear his first 100 sheep and progressed to 200 by the time we was 12.
Last year he reached the 500 milestone in just over seven and a half hours and realised that shearing 600 lambs within eight hours was a goal within reach.
In preparation, Ethan began an intensive training regime at the start of the year, signing up to a personal training program specifically designed for shearers.
The Evolved Shear Fitness program is based in Brisbane, and run by New Zealand shearer and personal trainer Dylan Fowler.
Ethan said the program allowed him to reach peak physical fitness, focusing on strength and endurance.
“It has been a year of build-up,” Ethan said.
“I just thought every year I’ve been going up and up so I thought why not have a go at 600?
“It has been about six months training and I’ve been doing heaps of rowing and running and things like that.”
Ethan juggled the training program with his full-time job at the family business and would often spend hours in the gym after a full day of shearing.
He said his father Paul had been a great source of encouragement throughout the process.
“Dad has been shearing for 35 years so he’s probably better than I am,” he said.
“He’s always good for advice.”
Most of the Harder family is involved in the contracting business, involved in shearing, rousing, classing and cooking in the team.
Paul said Ethan had always showed determination.
“I’m very proud, he’s a very passionate shearer,” he said.
“He’s worked very hard.”
The physical demands of shearing are what deter many from the job, but the challenge is what Ethan said attracted him most to the job.
He said although pushing through 600 sheep was a difficult feat, it was worth the reward.
“I like the fact that you have to push yourself and you’ve got to test your will and test your limits,” he said.
“There’s never a day where you don’t feel pain but you kind of get used to it.
“You’ve just got to set yourself goals and try and reach them.
“The whole time I just think about the end, the last five minutes and what everything is going to be like when it’s all over and it’s all done.
“That’s what pushes you through.”
After starting the day at 7.30am, Ethan had reached 308 lambs by lunch-time and was well on track to reach his target.
It was then time for a well-deserved rest, lunch and a massage before he was back to the stand for the final two runs of the day.
To reach 600 lambs, Ethan was aiming to complete each sheep within 40 seconds, including time for catch and cutter change.
With his friends and family cheering him on, the final lamb was down the shoot by 5.15pm and it was time for celebrations.
Ethan was not the only winner of the day, with Elders donating $1 for each sheep to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Elders Merredin branch manager Andrew Peters and Elders Wyalkatchem district wool manager Russell Wood organised the donation, seizing the opportunity to help a good cause.
Mr Wood said having watched Ethan in the shearing shed since he was a young boy, it was great to see him develop into an accomplished shearer.
“Its bloody amazing for a young bloke,” he said.
“It was certainly a marvellous effort.
“He’s a great kid, he’s pretty level-headed and I think he does 250 or 260 on a normal day which is good going for any shearer, let alone an 18-year-old.
“Elders will donate the $602 to the Royal Flying Doctors Service.”
Ethan was given a few days off to recover before returning to work earlier this week.
Next year he is considering applying for an official attempt at the world record.
Ethan also plans to travel to Europe to shear with Irish, Italian and English teams over a three-month period.
“The goal is to go to the UK next year to see what goes on over there and I want to get into a bit more show shearing,” he said.
“I want to try and achieve everything that I can, so if there’s a record there to be broken then hopefully I can have a crack.”