NEW Zealand shearers and brothers Floyde and Levi Neil on Saturday set two world nine-hour Merino ewe shearing records in Western Australia.
Floyde Neil set a new solo record of 540 ewes, and together the pair established a two-stand record of 1066.
His back wasn’t the best, but it was good enough for Floyde Neil as he and brother Levi claimed a bit of record-breaking Merino shearing history in the wilds of southern Western Australia.
Barely concealing the agony of lower and middle back pain, 30 year-old Neil, from Taumarunui, set a new world solo nine-hours merino ewe-shearing record of 540 at Rockliffe, about 280km south-east of Perth and a few kilometres from where he has grown one of the state’s bigger shearing businesses at Boyup Brook.
The sheep-a-minute pace broke the previous record of 530 shorn by fellow New Zealander Stacey Te Huia in New South Wales eight years ago, and was also part of Neil’s establishment of a two-stand record of 1066 with his 28 year-old brother, who shore 526 ewes.
Needing an average of 59 ewes an hour to break the individual record, Floyde Neil got off to a big start with 121 in the first two hours to breakfast at 7am. And despite the bolt-upright flexes of the back needed with every sheep dispatched later in the day, he still managed 30 in the last half hour to the 5pm finish, claiming the record with less than nine minutes to go.
With about 100 people watching – from supporters to the simply curious – he became only the second shearer to average a sheep a minute or quicker in an adult Merino record attempt.
In the nature of records shearing, among the significant team of helpers on Saturday was Lou Brown, originally from Hawke’s Bay and who in the same wool shed four years ago shore 497 at under 58 seconds a sheep to break the record for eight hours.
There were at least six others with world Record credentials, and Neil said that neither he nor his brother could have reached their goals without them.
One was father Roger Neil, who sold his own shearing run in Taumarunui last year, and is currently working “helping out the boys” in Western Australia. He couldn’ have been prouder, saying he was even more proud than when he was one of a quartet in a four-stand strong wool lamb shearing record in New Zealand 16 years ago.
Another was Cartwright Terry, originally from Cambridge and who with brother Michael set a two-stand Merino ewe record for eight hours which still stands after 20 years. It was one of 57 record attempts “Carty” has been to over the years, more often than not as one of the crew.
“I’m addicted,” he confessed.
It was to have been a solo record bid only, which Roger Neil and Cartwright Terry agreed could have seen it go 20 or more higher with the better selection of sheep. But the course changed when Floyde decided 2-3 months ago he wanted to also claim the vacant two-stand record, needing double the number to be selected from the target flock.
Terry said before the record bid that while the nine-hour day is barely a feature of Australian shearing any longer, “both boys” were capable of 550 or more, and in time the record could go over 650 ewes.
“But let’s be realistic, let’s set a two-stand world record and then hopefully they shear more than 530 each to secure a solo title,” he had said.
With nine-hour days in wool sheds all but confined to the past, it was Floyde Neil’s first in Australia, and his first anywhere since a day near Rotorua about seven years ago. Levi Neil had never shorn a nine-hour day.
Neither of the new record-holders had previously done more than 500 ewes in a day, on either fine wool Merinos or the more tally-friendly strong wool types more common in New Zealand.
Floyde Neil has been shearing since his teens and entered the record books in November with a crossbred lamb record, that stood for less than three months. Although married with two children, he is looking at options for further records – possibly another crossbred lambs bid later this year.
He’s also planning as many as six trips to New Zealand next Summer for the national shearing circuit, with a target of winning the right to represent New Zealand in the annual home and away trans-Tasman shearing tests.
But there is the issue of the back pain, that his father said was evident beforehand, and which the record-breaking shearer says needs a couple of weeks off before shearing again.
Despite the family history in shearing, Levi Neil was a comparative latecomer and worked in the meatworks for Silver Fern Farms in the South Island before turning his hand to the wool shed. But he seemed happy enough that his brother had given him the chance.
It never seems too late for one curious spectator, in Peter Ledger, who travelled more than three hours from Mundaring, near Perth, to check out the quality of the shearing.
“It was very inspiring,” he said, at the age of 67, and having taken up shearing less than four years ago, because he was retiring from farming.
“I’d like to think I could do 200.”
For the record, Stacey Te Huia shore 113 in the first two hours of his February 2015 record, followed by successive 105-minutes runs of 103, 105, 104 and 105. On Saturday, Floyde Neil shore runs of 121, 105, 105, 106 and 103, and Levi Neil shore runs of 115, 103, 100, 104 and 104.
Judging convenor Alistair Emslie, of Kurow, said Floyde Neil had had one “reject” during the day and Levi Neil four, as the panel of four kept a close watch on the quality. Floyde Neil had an average quality rating of 16.74 penalty points, and Levi Neil 17.24, each within the limit of 18 points.
Source – SSNZ.
Amazing talents of fitness, skill, courage and mental determination. Well done to all involved.