Some Alberta wool producers, including some locals, got a chance to learn from one of the world’s best last week.
Mike Pora, who is the current North American Sheep Shearing Challenge champion as well as a shearer, wool handler and trainer in Australia, was at a farm near Bashaw on Wednesday, July 6 for a one-day clinic on advanced techniques for shearing sheep. The clinic drew about a dozen wool producers from around Alberta to the Jessica Chitwood farm located a short distance southwest of Bashaw.
Pora provided the clinic as part of his trip to Canada this summer, which will include him defending his sheep shearing title this week at the Calgary Stampede.
From Cowra, New South Wales – located about 300 kilometreswest of Sydney – Pora works for Australia Wool Innovations (AWI), a non-profit company which provides investment into research, development and marketing for the country’s wool industry in hopes of increasing profitability and global market access.
His post provides Pora with numerous opportunities to develop and hone his shearing skills from among the best in the world, something he was more than happy to pass along to the Alberta producers that could attend the clinic.
“I came to spend a month in Canada visiting as well as defend my crown at the Calgary Stampede, when Shaun (Fajnor) asked me if I would be willing to instruct a clinic, which I was really happy to do,” Pora said.
“The clinic is about providing them with tips on how to improve their shearing techniques to make it easier on them and the animals along with being able to help them do it faster, which helps take the stress and physical strain off the shearer and the sheep.”
Fajnor, a producer from Taber who was at the clinic and became friends with Pora at last year’s challenge, instructs a beginner shearing course and was glad Pora accepted the invitation.
“We met through some competitions and with him being a trainer in Australia, it thought it would be a great help to our group in Alberta to be able to learn more,” he said, explaining the clinic came together quickly through the small number of shearers that’s been organized through a Facebook group.
“The techniques we are learning make it easier to get more quality wool from the sheep while being easier on the animals. We are always looking at the welfare of our animals as its our livelihood and to be able to take advantage of Mike’s cutting edge techniques is especially great for us.”
One of the big keys to making shearing more efficient – extracting the most wool possible while doing it in the least amount of time with the lowest effort – involves the correct handling and positioning of both shearer and sheep.
“It’s all about being able to manipulate your body in a way that handles the sheep,” he stated.
“Shearing is really hard on a person’s back, so if you can use your legs and the ground to manipulate the sheep to use their own body to take their weight, it will allow you to be able to work longer and make it easier on your body and the sheep. In my job, I’ve learned through studies back home that every hour of shearing is equal to running about seven kilometres. So, anything that can make that easier will be better for your body.”
Chitwood, who has been raising sheep for wool for the past five years and has around 76 sheep, explained that hosting the clinic was a great opportunity to learn and bring together fellow wool producers.
“It’s always great to meet people in the industry and this was an excellent chance to be able to learn from one of the top shears around,” she said.
“Every little bit that can help you improve will provide you with a better chance at more earning potential and perhaps provide a longer career since you won’t burnout as quickly.”