Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weak dollar keeps sheep shearers Down Under, creating demand for Americans to learn the skill

As the numbers of American sheep ranches have declined and shearers have been harder to find, ranchers have depended on shearing companies from Australia and New Zealand. But "In a strange local backwash of global capitalism and the weak United States dollar," those companies "are staying home this spring, unable to justify the exchange-rate loss," The New York Times reports.

"This is a fortunate year to become an American shearer," Kirk Johnson writes. "A good shearer can finish a sheep in two or three minutes and earn upward of $70 to $80 an hour, minus expenses." To get the story up close and personal, Johnson joined Montana State University's sheep-shearing school in Norris, Mont., which offers a three-day class in the basics. (Photo by Jamie Osborne for the Times)

Johnson reported shearing only seven sheep in a day and a half. "When you have a squirming 100-pound yearling between your knees, a roaring set of power shears in one hand, and a completely blank mind because everything your instructor just told you about which stroke comes next has faded into a white noise of panic and muscle fatigue, getting the wool off is not an academic question." (Read more)

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