Ewe shearing record falls at Kojonup

Ewe shearing record falls at Kojonup


Sheep
On his way to setting a world record, Bunbury shearer Lou Brown is coached by the shearer who held the record Cartwright Terry (left) and his mentor Michael James Terry, leaning over the gate.

On his way to setting a world record, Bunbury shearer Lou Brown is coached by the shearer who held the record Cartwright Terry (left) and his mentor Michael James Terry, leaning over the gate.

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A sideway tap on the upper arm with a clenched fist - a sign of respect that said 'thanks bro, it's my record now' - marked a new holder of the world eight-hour solo Merino ewe shearing record on Saturday.

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Cartwright Terry (left) congratulates Lou Brown, with his daughter Inaaya, 8, in front of the tally board.

Cartwright Terry (left) congratulates Lou Brown, with his daughter Inaaya, 8, in front of the tally board.

Lou Brown celebrates the new record.

Lou Brown celebrates the new record.

Wool classer Hailee Hiriaki (left) and wool handlers Latoya Te Kapa and Ralph Wharanere processing the wool during the record shear.

Wool classer Hailee Hiriaki (left) and wool handlers Latoya Te Kapa and Ralph Wharanere processing the wool during the record shear.

A SIDEWAYS tap on the upper arm with a clenched fist - a sign of respect that said 'thanks bro, it's my record now' - marked a new holder of the world eight-hour solo Merino ewe shearing record recently.

It happened at 4.58pm on April 27 with 32 minutes of Lou Brown's final run still to shear, was unofficial and subject to final tally determined by the four world sheep shearing records referees watching blow by blow.

But Cartwright Terry, the shearer who had held the world record since February, 2003, and the shearer stretching his back in front of him and who he was coaching ewe by ewe through the record attempt, both knew the record was about to change hands.

So did most of a crowd of about 400 people packed into James and Nina Hope's Rockcliffe shearing shed near Kojonup - if you wanted a WA shearer or shearing contractor on Saturday, their shed was the place to look.

They had been counting sheep - many recording numbers on hand-held clickers so as not to lose count - since the final run started at 3.30pm.

They could see the tally board and add the figures from three earlier two-hour runs - 120, 126 and 126 - plus a stunning 63 again in the first hour of the final run.

The crowd knew Cartwright's record, which had withstood four challenges by gun shearers in the past five years and one of them just at the end of March, had been matched even before shearing legend Steve Potaka-Osborne on the microphone, announced it.

The last ewe down the chute was number 466, record equalled and the applause, cheers and whistles nearly took the iron roof off.

As Mr Brown momentarily stretched then stepped forward into the pen to get his next sheep, past Mr Terry who was holding the gate open, he tapped him on the arm, acknowledging his support and help in breaking the record.

Then it was head down, back to work.

Good shearers look unhurried, saving time by maintaining a consistent pattern, using a minimum of long, smooth strokes with the handpiece - up to 18 per sheep is allowed in record attempts - to harvest the wool cleanly first pass.

That was what Mr Terry and his brother Michael James Terry - trade-named MJ and joint holder with Cartwright of the two-stand eight-hour Merino ewe shearing world record set back in 2003 with Cartwright's solo record, kept reminding Mr Brown for 466 sheep.

With a new world record in his keeping, Mr Brown set out over the remaining minutes to try and chase down his personal goal of shearing 500 sheep in eight hours.

The crowd repeatedly chanted his name followed by three quick hand claps to urge him on and shouted encouragement during cutter changes - every 10 ewes Mr Brown paused to change cutters on his handpiece and gulp down a high-energy drink to prevent dehydration and to ward off cramps.

But Mr Brown, 31, was tiring - the effort required to set an eight-hour shearing record is said to be equivalent to running two marathons back-to-back.

His shearing looked more frantic but the strokes were not as smooth or clean and several times he had to go back and clip the last of the fleece clear as rouseabout Latoya Te Kapa, who works with him at MJ Shearing, bundled it away.

When the crowd had counted down the last 10 seconds of the eight hours, Mr Brown had smashed the previous record by 31 ewes and missed his personal goal by just three.

A final run of 125 made his world record tally 497 and Mr Brown the first shearer to average less than a minute per sheep in setting the record.

He averaged 96 seconds for shearing each black-tag three-year-old plain-bodied Multi Purpose Merino ewe, cutting four kilograms of 18 micron wool from a few weeks short of a full year's growth.

The referees, head referee Bart Hatfield from New Zealand, Mike Henderson, WA, Grant Borchardt, Queensland and Dave Brooker, South Australia, rejected only one shorn sheep.

Mr Brown had nicked one in the third run and the judges considered he should have stopped shearing to sew the flap of skin up and did not count that sheep in the official tally of 497.

Mr Borchardt said having only one sheep rejected by referees in eight hours of record-shattering shearing was "absolutely unheard of".

"He's an awesome shearer, that's one of the best records I've ever seen," Mr Borchardt said.

A handy shearer in his time and in charge of looking after the gear on the day, Ray Sharp of Sharp Shearing Repairs, Serpentine, was more understated in his admiration of Mr Brown's sustained effort.

"I knew him when he was just a young smart arse, but he's matured into a really good shearer," Mr Sharp said.

He set up enough cutters beforehand to enable Mr Brown to change them out as they dulled throughout the eight hours and he only had to grind combs during rest breaks.

At the morning break, thin combs were changed for thicker combs and a spray lubricant used instead of oil, at lunch the thicker combs and cutters were oiled and the handpiece changed back to thinner combs and oil for the final run - all in the search for a few seconds saved per sheep.

Mr Sharp had also looked after the gear 16 years ago when the Terry brothers set their world records.

In another move designed to shave early seconds, the record attempt was delayed for half an hour - it had been due to start at 7am, not long after dawn, but Mr Brown and the Terry brothers were concerned the Hope ewes might still be cold and stiff from overnight.

With the referees' consent the start was rescheduled for 7.30am giving the sheep an extra 30 minutes in the sun - cold wool is stiff and harder to shear and cold sheep are less flexible and more likely to resist having a foreleg pulled up past their ear for their belly to be shorn.

The Terry brothers, Mr Potaka-Osborne and others had been working with James Hope for a month or more setting up the special race, pen and stand in the shearing shed for the record attempt and making sure there were no equipment failures on Saturday.

They also drafted the sheep they wanted from an initial mob of 660.

A proud Mr Hope said after a new world record was set in his shed, that he might have a plaque made to commemorate the occasion.

"That gate there will have to go up on display somewhere," he said, pointing to the freshly-painted white pen gate with Lou Brown's name in contrasting blue.

Michael James Terry said meticulous preparation and Mr Brown's own preparation - he had been dedicated to preparing for four months, giving up alcohol, working out at a gymnasium, meditating and consulting a personal fitness trainer - had paid off with a world record.

"Everything was right - the sheep were right, the shed was right, the weather conditions were right, the gear was right and Lou was right, he was in the right frame of mind, he wanted to do it," Michael James Terry said.

He and his brother thanked the Lou Brown team, including wool classer Hailee Hiriaki who normally classes for Steve and Rita Potaka-Osborne and wool handlers Maria Ormsby, Ms Te Kapa and Ralph Wharanere.

In particular, Ms Ormsby and Ms Te Kapa were part of the action for all 498 ewes shorn by Mr Brown.

On broom, Ms Ormsby never stopped sweeping for eight hours, collecting stray wool strands that could cause a slip and she caught every piece of belly wool as it came out the back.

She was also unerring in throwing the belly wool from any position on the boards into an open bale in the corner.

Ms Te Kapa sat on the floor in front of the sorting table watching Mr Brown.

As he started his second last stroke each sheep she was on her feet moving forward, by the time he completed the last stroke she had bundled the fleece and was pulling it out of his way, then throwing it on the table, skirting one side of it before returning to sit on the floor.

With unwavering concentration, she repeated that process 498 times.

"World records don't just happen, they are a team effort and I'm honoured to be part of Lou's team," Cartwright Terry said.

He admitted to having "mixed emotions" seeing his record broken by the shearer he coached.

"I'm honoured that you have taken the record, you have earned your place on the world record books," he told Mr Brown, after posing with him and the tally board showing their tallies side by side.

Mr Brown, who was born in Napier on New Zealand's north island but came to Australia with his family when he was 13 and started shearing with his mentor Michael James when he was 17, hugged both of the Terry brothers after setting a new record.

"MJ Shearing has been my mum, my girlfriend, my everything for the past few months," Mr Brown told the crowd.

A single father who lives in Bunbury, Mr Brown also hugged his children, son Reef, 12, and daughter Inaaya, 8, and his girlfriend Carolin Kikkas.

Momentarily lost for words, "unreal" was all he could say of what he felt and what the record meant to him.

Recovering quickly, he generated loud applause when he told an appreciative audience "we're (shearing) not an industry, we're a family."

"It was the family that supplied the inspiration for me to do this, it was the whole family that helped me produce a world record," Mr Brown said.

But speaking from experience Cartwright Terry summed up what Mr Brown faced once the adrenaline and euphoria has drained away.

Replying to a comment Mr Brown would be sore on Sunday, Mr Terry pointed out emphatically "he'll be sore for a week".

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