Shearers today aim to fleece a six-time champion from Australia of his title in Alexandra.

Yesterday the 55th New Zealand Merino Shearing Championships launched the competition shearing season, which will end with the Golden Shears in Masterton in March.

About 150 shearers and woolhandlers, plus an extra 15 groups of four for the team event, will show off their skills during the two-day event at Molyneux Stadium.

The shearing heats continued from 7am today followed by quarterfinals and semifinals.


The senior and open shearing and open woolhandling will conclude with finals tonight.

A strong Australian contingent has entered this year, as well as competitors from as far away as the Falkland Islands and United Kingdom.

Northburn and Earnscleugh Stations provided about 1200 sheep.

Co-organiser Graeme Bell said there were some difficult logistics involved in getting all the sheep through and setting up a shearing shed inside the building.

"It comes together in the end, but there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes."

There were some talented Australian contenders this year, he said.

"There will be some strong competition in the shearing from people like Robbie Glover, from Tasmania."

In the woolhandling, last year's winner Pagan Rimene, of Alexandra, will aim to retain her title against the likes of past winner Joel Henare, of Gisborne.


The team event was more lighthearted "to a degree", Mr Bell said.

"They all get dressed up in their team colours. But by the finals it gets pretty serious."

It was a big weekend for Alexandra, he said.

"I don't think the people realise how much money comes into the community."

Six-time open shearing champion and current title holder Damien Boyle, of Tambellup, Western Australia said the key was to shear properly.

"You need quality and pace. There have been a lot of times where I haven't finished first, but I've done the more quality shear.


"If you get a kicker, you've just got to get on with it."

The event is the only national fine wool shearing competition in the country.