Composite sheep ranked highest for OH&S risk by shearers in Elmore trial

Terry Sim January 25, 2017
Elmore trial sheep being shorn.

Elmore trial sheep being shorn.

COMPOSITE and crossbred sheep have ranked highest among shearers for occupational health and safety risk in the latest Elmore and District Machinery Field Days ‘Ewes for the future’ trial results.

During the October 2016 shearing of 2014-drop trial sheep, shearers were asked to rank the sheep on their liveweight as an OH&S issue and were also given a fleece combing score.

“The question they were asked was ‘Is there a potential OH&S issue? – yes or no,” ewe trial committee member Athol Frederick said.

“We kept it very simple; the aim wasn’t to be a judge and jury, but we thought we would put it out there as a talking point,” he said.

“We wanted to get the discussion going, without being a judge and jury.”

Over the six years of their life crossbred ewes can get very heavy and “at the end of the day somebody has got to shear them, haven’t they?” he said.

Mr Frederick said sheep liveweight can potentially be an issue, especially as ewes get older.

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The Elmore trial sheep shearers effectively ranked the various sheep types; either with a Yes, indicating their liveweight was ‘OK’ or No, meaning excessive weight. The scoring was then converted to a scale, with 100 percent being the best.

All the Merino bloodline sheep, Loddon Valley, Leahcim and CentrePlus scored 100pc for the OH&S question, but the composite and crossbred sheep ranged from 73-97pc – Cashmore-Oaklea Performance Maternals 73pc, Multimeat-Merino cross 98pc and Border Leicester-Merino or first cross 97pc. The crossbreds generally ranked above the Merinos on combing score.

The Cashmore-Oaklea Performance Maternals were the heaviest at the last shearing, averaging just under 80kg, followed by the first cross ewes at just under 70kg and the MulitMeats crosses at around 65kg.

The shearing score exercise was overseen by Shearing Contractors of Australia’s Shearer Woolhandler Training staff. Mr Fredrick said the ewe committee wanted to get sheep producers talking about the issue of sheep liveweight and OH&S.

“We want to get people thinking about it, so it’s a starting point.

“I’ve been putting the question for some years now – ‘How big is too big? — and I reckon we are there, aren’t we?”

“And look at some of those huge Merino rams, at their growth and size, it’s not just a few of them, there are plenty of them like that now isn’t there?

Click here for the Elmore ewe trial ewe liveweight graph.

Click here for the Elmore ewe trial shearer score graph.


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