The Central Hawke's Bay Show is more than a century old, but one of its events precedes it by another half century.

It is 150 years since shearing competitions were first held in Waipukurau, the earliest recorded shearing competition in New Zealand.

An exhibition competition was held at this year's show to mark the 150th anniversary, which included two of the country's top blade-shearing exponents.

Allan Oldfield and Tony Dobbs flew from the South Island for the event and will likely be part of the New Zealand team for the 2019 World Blade Shearing championships.


Machine shearing revolutionised the shearing industry and today it is also a sport for all facets of wool harvesting, helping to keep quality and quantity standards high for the national yarn.

But many shearers prefer the old method.

Oldfield said blade shearing was better for both the shearer and the shorn.

"It's better for the sheep, it's easier for the shearer, it's calmer, less noise, a whole variety of reasons," he said.

"With machine shearing, you can't talk to the bloke two stands away. In a blade shearing shed you can be at the end of the board and talking to the wool classer down 15 or 20 metres away because there is just no sound.

"If I could blade shear all year round I would. The sheep are more relaxed; they don't fight you so much."

There is a three-month season for blade shearing in the South Island - about 300,000 sheep - because blade shearing helps the sheep in cooler climes.

"The blade shearing leaves a bit more cover on the sheep, so they can survive better in the high-country environment where the weather can turn foul at any moment.


"That 10 or 15mm makes a big difference for their survival."

For the record, the 1868 competition was won by James Walker, a shepherd for chief Te Hapuku.

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