"It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it" — words that couldn't be more true than for woolshed cleaner Rodney Robinson.

When Southern Rural Life found him, he was in the dark, down on his hands and knees, a headlamp on his forehead and a large suction hose in hand. It was hard, laborious work.

The smell of ammonia strong and the dust extreme. Some would say it was a sshh ... erm ... shocker of a job.

Robinson is contracted to travel the South Island and remove sheep manure from under woolsheds. He works alone and travels with a caravan.


Once he is set up, a flyer goes out on the local rural delivery and when "people get wind" that he is in the area he stays until all the sheds on his books are done.

How long it takes to clean out each shed depends on the type of shed and the amount of manure and its level of compaction.

"This shed, for instance has grating underneath, so I have removed a section of the grating every couple metres or so".

He then digs away to remove the "top crust" so the easy, loose manure underneath can be suctioned out.

The manure is processed in what Robinson refers to as "Bertha", a high-powered vacuum machine which also processes the manure into a small particle size before expelling it into a pile.

The processed manure is a valuable fertiliser for the farmer to use on paddocks or gardens. Photo / Alice Scott
The processed manure is a valuable fertiliser for the farmer to use on paddocks or gardens. Photo / Alice Scott

"Yeah, it's a bit of a process, but it is what it is and there are no short cuts to it" he said.

Some sheds Robinson said could have more than 50 years worth of manure lying under them. The dirtiest job he had done was was his first shed.

"It was snowing outside and underneath was just green slop. It was a very mucky, messy job. But it can't get any worse than that" he laughed.


Robinson said the product left outside is a high quality fertiliser which is left for the farmer.

"Some people offer it up to local organisations to bag and sell. It's great for gardens or it can be spread back on paddocks".

Robinson said he was not bothered by the solitary life. With no wife or children, he said enjoyed the travelling.

"I have family and mates all over the South Island, so I am never too far from someone I know. Life is what it is".

Robinson has a house in Christchurch and gets home "every four weeks or so".

He cooks his own meals and will use the bathroom facilities at shearing quarters if the farm has them available.

"The caravan also has a shower in it. A shower is definitely a must in this job" he said, laughing.