Interstate shearing jobs still going ahead

Interstate shearing jobs still going ahead

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COPING WELL: Craig Gilbert, Woolaway Contract Shearing, Naracoorte, with Dollings Produce's Pete Morton, said shearing teams had been permitted to travel across the SA/Vic border, providing they returned to SA afterwards.

COPING WELL: Craig Gilbert, Woolaway Contract Shearing, Naracoorte, with Dollings Produce's Pete Morton, said shearing teams had been permitted to travel across the SA/Vic border, providing they returned to SA afterwards.

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Shearer teams who usually cross interstate borders have been largely unhindered by border restrictions, according to the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia.

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Shearer teams who usually cross interstate borders have been largely unhindered by border restrictions, according to the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia.

SCAA secretary Jason Letchford said camp-out jobs were still going ahead, with many SA teams heading to western divisions of NSW and Vic, with it proving "a little trickier" for those travelling into SA.

"Interstate shearing teams have needed to have some paperwork, including proof of the job and that they aren't from a COVID-19 hotspot," Mr Letchford said.

Shearing contractor Craig Gilbert, Woolaway Contract Shearing, Naracoorte, said his business had managed to cope with the border restrictions so far.

Mr Gilbert said the majority of his jobs were in SA, with about 10pc in Vic, but travel across the border had still been able to occur.

"A lot of our Victorian jobs had passed by the time border restrictions had become diligent, that was just to do with our program," he said.

"There were a couple of Victorian jobs where we didn't know what we were going to do, but as long as we were open and honest at the border crossings, we were allowed to travel back and forward."

Mr Gilbert's autumn workforce is made up of locals, but he employs up to 10 NZ workers during spring - about half being "regulars" - who he hoped would still be able to travel across to travel to Australia for the busy spring season.

Producers are going to have to be very mindful in their shearing dates, and be forward thinking about locking shearing in. - JOE KEYNES

"I spoke with them about the idea of coming across again to shear later in the year, should the border crossings become more relaxed in August, and they said they would be willing to come here and do their 14-day quarantine (before starting shearing with us)," Mr Gilbert said.

Mr Letchford said SCAA was working with the National Farmers' Federation and WoolProducers Australia to ensure Australia had access to NZ contractors when there would be a greater seasonal need later in the year.

"Once we get to the middle of winter, we really need to have everything in check so that we can get those essential NZ workers over here to help shear flocks during the peak period."

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He estimated that, nationally, up to 30 per cent of the spring shearing workforce was made up of seasonal workers coming across from NZ.

"That (30pc) is anecdotal evidence, and I would estimate that that number would be higher in the South East of SA, during the spring period," he said.

Mr Letchford said this year's spring shearing season would likely be even bigger than usual, particularly in the SE, with a number of producers in the region having chosen to delay their shearing.

He said there may also be headaches filling shed hand positions later in the year.

"We have had a huge reliance on backpackers, and they have been ideal at filling shed hand positions," he said.

"Backpackers have the opportunity to come to rural areas to extend their visas, but lots have gone home.

"Ourselves, and the horticultural industry, will feel the brunt of that this spring."

Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said with spring looking to be particularly busy in the shearing industry, it was important for producers to consider being flexible with shearing dates.

"Producers are going to have to be very mindful in their shearing dates, and be forward thinking about locking shearing in," he said.

Shearing aside, Mr Keynes said farm labour from a livestock perspective was relatively unaffected by COVID-19, although BlazeAid work to rebuild fences in fire-affected regions had "taken a hit".

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