Click go the shears ...1 million times

By Laurel Stowell -
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Kopere Downs shears his one millionth sheep. Photo/ Sieska Verdonk
Kopere Downs shears his one millionth sheep. Photo/ Sieska Verdonk

His father Desi sheared 2.25 million sheep over 50 years, and son Kopere Downs reached his first million on a farm near Taihape.

It's no big deal for a shearer to get that far but there was a small celebration anyway.

"We don't drink at work but we cracked up a beer each and they all raised their bottle to me," Mr Downs said.

"Some friends gave me a little present ... but other than that it's just another day."

Downs has been working for Hourigan Shearing Services for the last 15 years. He started shearing as a job 20 years ago, despite his father's wishes.

"I pretty much grew up in the sheds. But the shearing life is a hard life, and dad thought I was smart enough to do something else," he said.
"But in the end I couldn't handle working inside."

He likes to be outdoors and active. He tried forestry, pipe laying, painting and building but shearing had more appeal.

At this time of year he's leaving home before daybreak and returning after dark, working nine hour days, seven days a week. There are breaks from September to November and April to June, and some shearers go overseas to work during those times.

Downs can earn $100,000 a year in New Zealand, and more if he works in Australia in the off season.

Since starting shearing as a job he's kept a daily diary record of how many sheep he shears. He's paid on contract, and flicks a counter in the shed for each one shorn.

He's still enjoying the work, though at his age aches and pains last longer and he has to make sure to keep fit. He also misses out on spending time with his young family.

He likes to push himself, and be the fastest in the shed.
"As well as trying to make money you're racing with your mate next to you all day.

Sometimes I'm tired but most of the time I can push through that.
"It's not all about physical strength - there's a lot of mental strength too."
He plans to keep shearing until he wants to do something else.

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