Prime Minister Bill English will go from slaying a shearing legend in his Southland home turf to more uncertain territory when he makes his debut at Big Gay Out.

English took on the world's fastest shearer - Sir David Fagan - at the Shearing and Wool Handling World Championships in Invercargill yesterday - and won.

But that was on his home turf and in front of his home crowd - farmers.

Today will be a completely different kettle of fish. The staunch Catholic will make his debut at Big Gay Out.


But it will be Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett who speaks for the Government at the event - English will go along for a walkabout a bit later.

That has been put down to logistical and timing issues.

But English voted against the gay marriage bill - and even though he has since said he would vote differently today, he is set to get a sceptical reception.

English said he was not nervous about that.

It was far from heated at the shearing - politicians generally take their election year victories where they can but even English said his win in the contest against Fagan was undoubtedly a jack-up.

"He wasn't going as fast as he might have, put it that way."

Fagan, who retired from professional shearing in 2015, rather nobly denied he had thrown the contest.

"Of course I wouldn't have done that - he won it fair and square.

"It was brilliant - how often can we get a Prime Minister along to shear a sheep?"

The sentiment was shared by an official on the Australian team, who observed he didn't expect to see Australia's PM Malcolm Turnbull shearing a sheep any time soon.

However, Fagan stopped short of recommending the PM return to farming: "He should stick to his day job."

It had been years since English last sheared a sheep and he had travelled down south a day early and stayed at his family farm but denied that was to get in a sneaky practice shear ahead of his bout with Fagan.

Negotiations leading into the contest had been intense - the Prime Minister's office's starting bid was for Fagan to shear 10 sheep to English's one. That went down to five but by crunch time it had turned from a race to a 'demonstration' on one sheep each.

His decision to take part carried its risks. The last thing English needed was a cut, bleeding sheep in his hands and there were some sensitivities whether animal welfare issues raised about rodeos would seep into events such as the World Shearing Championships as well.