While New Zealand and Victorian shearers are unable to travel to SA for the spring shearing season as a result of COVID-19 border restrictions, those in the SA shearing industry are optimistic that utilising local forces will allow the state get through the busy period.
Shearing Contractors Association of Australia chief executive Glenn Haynes said the potential shearer shortage would mostly be an issue for the South East region, where he estimated nearly 180 NZ shearers and 30 Vic shearers usually worked in spring.
"When we get into the springtime in the South East, we usually have the influx of New Zealanders, it's really a six-week period when you've got big offshears sales when demand ramps up," Mr Haynes said.
He said tough seasons further north in SA - in parts of the Mid North and Eyre Peninsula - would mean a shorter shearing season in those areas, finishing in September rather than November, with those shearers able to travel south in the coming months.
A lot of young guys who wouldn't have got a go will probably get a go this year.
"People are saying we need to get a lot of people in from outside SA, but we don't want our own guys further north doing nothing in November and December, that would result in people leaving the industry because they'd sat down for a few months."
RELATED READING:Global demand for wool continues to falter
Mr Haynes estimated about 130 shearers and shed staff would travel to the SE from further north, with 60-100 from NSW already here to help, and estimated the SE shearing season would finish only slightly later this year, perhaps in the week before Christmas as opposed to early December.
"Yes, it is going to take longer, and some people will have to be flexible with dates, but if everyone is aware and puts plans in place, I can't see how we won't be able to get it done," he said.
Shearing contractor Rick Chilcott, Chilcott Shearing, Lucindale, usually relies on New Zealanders to fill a quarter of his workforce in spring, but he has secured shearers from NSW, who should be able to travel to SA in the coming weeks unless SA/NSW border restrictions change.
"We'll try to spread the work as much as possible, and anything that has wool longer than 12 months and urgently needs shearing will have priority before the six-month or eight-month shearings," he said.
Mr Chilcott said the coming season would be an excellent opportunity for learner shearers to be involved.
"A lot of young guys who wouldn't have got a go will probably get a go this year, which will be really good - there are quite a few promising ones around the place," he said.
Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.