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Emily Welch

Emily Welch.

In November 2007, Emily won the women's world record for the number of lambs shorn in one day.

What kind of training did you have to do for this world record attempt?

I started training about 6 months before the record. I did a lot of running, rowing and cycling on top of my normal eight hours a day of shearing.

How old were you when you shore your first sheep?

I was 20 when I shore my first sheep. I thought it would be a handy skill to know, so my dad taught me in my university holidays. It was harder than it looked! Dad got me to watch him shear a sheep and then let me have a go and it took me between 10 and 15 minutes to shear it. The hardest thing about shearing is keeping the sheep in position and it is one of the things that takes the longest to learn. I had a lot of sheep kicking on me till I learnt to hold them in the right position. It is something that you have to work on, and think about all the time - no matter how long you’ve being shearing.

Why did you decide to become a professional shearer?

I sort of fell into shearing. When I got Dad to teach me I didn’t think that I would take it up as a career, but then I really enjoyed it and found I was quite good at it. I started going to a few shows and that was when I decided to shear full time because to do better at the shows I had to be shearing full time.

What do you like about your job?

I love the challenge of my job. Every day is a challenge to be a little better or shear a few more sheep. I also really love that it is a job that you can travel the world and earn money wherever you are. You also get to see a lot of New Zealand with shearing because you get to go into some places way in the country that you wouldn’t go to unless you were working there. You get to meet heaps of different people with shearing as well.

In a regular day’s shearing, how many sheep would you usually shear per hour?

On a normally day I would do approximately 45-50 lambs in an hour and 32-40 ewes in an hour. This comes to between 360 and 400 lambs in a day and between 250 and 320 ewes in a day. A normal working day for us is 8 hours - from 7am to 5pm.

What other competitions have you recently competed in and how were you placed?

My best result was at the Golden Shears in Masterton this year, where I came 2nd in the senior grade. This was the best a woman had ever done at the Golden Shears. I also came 6th at the New Zealand Champs in Te Kuiti and was recently place 2nd at a show in Australia were I travelled as part of the Northland shearing team. In these competitions I compete against men.

Are there many female shearers in New Zealand?

There aren’t many female shearers in New Zealand - approximately 20 to 30 (it is hard to know, as it is such a wide-spread industry and not all of the women who shear compete).

Given that it is a physically tough job, how long do you think you will continue to shear for?

This is a hard question to answer as it depends on a few things. It depends on weather I want to do any more records or not. I am rethinking things at the moment as I have been focused on this record attempt for so long and I now need to set myself new goals. I don’t think I will be shearing for too many more years, as I would like to have a family of my own soon.

Have you ever injured yourself while shearing?

The most common injury that I have is cutting my fingers. It is very easy to do and is painful when you do it. I had a hamstring niggle that was causing me a bit of stress before the record attempt, but I had a full-time physiotherapist and she worked hard on fixing it so that it caused me no problems on the day, which was a bit of a relief. The physio was with me for the whole day of the record and she kept my muscles loose and my back from getting too sore. I have had the odd sore back but nothing major.

Do you have any advice for the readers of wickED?

One thing I have learnt though my shearing career, and particularly this world record attempt, is that nothing is too hard to achieve if you put your mind to it. Sometimes things get really hard and giving up seems like the best option, but it is better to work through the hard times and get to your goal, as that is always going to be far more satisfying. This applies to everything in life - not just shearing.

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