Classers cutting contamination

29 Jun, 2006 07:00 PM
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WOOLCLASSERS across WA have stepped up to the challenge of lifting the standard of the state's wool clip.

The Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) has regularly reported unacceptable levels of contamination in wool clips and WA has been identified as one of the worst offenders.

A joint effort between AWEX and Australian Wool Innovation led to woolclasser and shed staff training programs being released earlier in the year.

In past decades the woolclasser had been the boss of the shed and they dictated the day-to-day operations of shearing.

In recent years many had lost control of the shed due to reasons including staff cutbacks and poor attitudes.

Woolclassers that spoke to Farm Weekly said it was time to lift those attitudes and create better communication within the industry.

Great Southern woolclasser Bindi Nankivell has worked in shearing sheds for 10 years and is not afraid to let staff know if they are not performing.

"As a woolclasser you have to be able to do every job in the shed," Ms Nankivell said.

"You can not make your staff do something you can not do."

This includes getting behind the handpiece to shear the odd sheep, so there was no way a shearer could pull any stunts, she said.

But according to Ms Nankivell, clip preparation started with the woolgrowers.

Basic practices such as shed presentation, pre-shearing crutching and separating breeds before they entered the shed provided a base for minimising contamination.

Ms Nankivell said AWEX were doing their best and woolclassers were getting feedback.

"But there is still a minority of attitudes that need to change and it is difficult to police," she said.

Lake Grace woolclasser Allen Jenks takes his job seriously and his reputation is on the line if contamination is found in a bale with his stencil on it.

Mr Jenks said classers had to show they were in charge of the shed and guide their younger and less experienced staff.

"You are the one who has to set the pace," he said.

"You are only as good as your crew and it is up to the woolclasser to keep their team up."

Mr Jenks called for more training funding from industry for awareness days when staff could see how contamination affects the industry further down the chain.

AWEX wool services manager David Cother said clip standards may not have lifted in WA yet, but awareness of the situation had definitely increased.

"We believe awareness is out there and hopefully standards will not continue to fall," Mr Cother said.

"But the challenge now is to get them better."

AWEX is maintaining a philosophy of collective responsibility and adhering to codes of practice, to tackle the contamination issue.

"Woolclassers or AWEX can not do this alone," Mr Cother said.

"We have all got a responsibility and it is in everybody's interest."

Mr Cother said woolclassers had often taken on the defacto responsibility of clip standards.

"But there are some things that are out of their control," he said.

"The classers are put in an environment where they have to work and sometimes it is less than a good environment."

Woolclassers can access the AWEX website for update information on current issues, training packages, codes of practice and to view post sale clip preparation complaints.

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