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Tectra and AWI to look at alternative shearing methods

Monday, 7 February 2005
Tectra has been working with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to develop a world first prototype upright posture shearing platform (UPSP).

AWI selected Tectra as one of its UPSP developers because of Tectra's internationally recognised wool harvesting development and training capabilities, essential elements required for this initiative.

Shearing is a highly physical and demanding profession based on skill, fitness and technique. In recent years a number of factors such as older shearers, an awareness of occupational health and safety issues and technological advances has resulted in the industry investigating alternative methods for shearing. An upright posture shearing platform is one such initiative.

Tectra's Project Manager Peter Taylor, a former shearing instructor, believes AWI's commitment to looking at new and innovative methods for shearing practices has to be good for all involved in the industry.

"New Zealand's shearing pattern is the world's preferred method. However there is no doubting shearing is physically demanding and takes its toll on shearers over time," says Peter. "AWI has issued an exciting challenge to maintain the benefits of our existing systems and reduce the health and safety issues related to shearing. The major difference is that sheep are not shorn on a board, rather they are shorn in a waist height station."

There are distinct advantages to the UPSP. It allows continual animal delivery; improves access for the shearer; requires less physical exertion by shearers to catch and manipulate the sheep; and has the potential to reduce support labour in the shed as the shearer has more freedom to assist in blow preparation and remove and sort sub-standard wool.

Preliminary trials on a research prototype have produced pleasing results, while recognising that further development is required so as to match the same output as the shearer.

Peter says that some of the more challenging parts of the project were loading the sheep and modifying the blow pattern for shearing.

"Output drives the shearing industry. Farmers expect the job to be done on time and to budget so any 'new method for shearing' must have this in mind. Parallelling this is also the need to 'tweak' rather than overhaul a shearing pattern that is effective.

"AWI recognises the importance of balancing these requirements and the UPSP has certainly taken these factors into consideration."

With the first stage now completed AWI are assessing the involvement of commercial partners in the development of a higher performance, next stage, and commercial prototype.