A group of women shearers made history setting a world nine-hour four-stand strong wool lamb record yesterday.

The challenge was completed with 2066 lambs shorn in a woolshed at Waihi-Pukawa Station, near Turangi.

Particularly amazing for the crowd of 200 cramming the woolshed beside State Highway 41 late in the hot afternoon, was that the quartet saved the best for last.

They opened the day with 463 in the first two hours from 5am to breakfast, an average of 57.87 a quarter-hour between them, already well on track to pass the dream-target of 2000.


The then shore an impressive 416 in the final run of 1hrs 45mins, at an average of 59.43 per quarter-hour.

Chief referee Martyn David, from Wales, said despite the huge effort, the quality got better and better all day.

Megan Whitehead in action. Photo / Supplied
Megan Whitehead in action. Photo / Supplied

Particularly stunning was the effort of Gore shearer Megan Whitehead the youngest of the quartet, at just 23-years-old.

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Whitehead led the individual tallies with 608, at about 53.3 seconds a lamb, caught, shorn and dispatched.

One retired Southland shearer estimated up to 20 people ventured north to support "our girl – Megan Whitehead" who hails from a family that has contributed immensely to the shearing industry.

Moments after patting her last lamb through the porthole to the count-out pen, Whitehead was mobbed by friends.

"You're a machine, a machine" said one.


Marg Baynes, who set a two-stand record with daughter Ingrid in 2009, said: "You look as good at the end as you did at the start".

Whitehead said: "I'm alright".

Amy Silcock. Photo / Supplied
Amy Silcock. Photo / Supplied

Encouraged by father and former shearer Quentin Whitehead, she said she'd often thought of doing a record attempt, but not for at least another two years.

"This morning I was a mess. Just nerves. There were a lot of expectations" she said.

Milestones were also passed by the rest of the team, including Marlborough contractor and university graduate Sarah Higgins, who shore 528; Piopio-based shearer Natalya Rangiawha, from Raglan, who shore 507; and Amy Silcock, from Tiraumea in the Wairarapa, who finished with 423.

All four are regarded as being relatively early in their careers, with Silcock and Higgins who are regular performers on the competition circuit the most experienced.

Sarah Higgins. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Higgins. Photo / Supplied

Higgins, 27, originally from Havelock but now based in Blenheim, was the most well-known. Her previous achievements include in 2015 becoming the first person to win Golden Shears titles in both woolhandling and shearing, adding the novice shearing title to the junior woolhandling title she won two years earlier.

Rangiawha, also 27, was fifth in the 2018 New Zealand junior championship final in Te Kuiti in 2018, and Silcock, 32, has been part of the competition circuit for several seasons, but was shearing merinos in Australia when she got the call to replace injured original hopeful and Scottish shearer Helga Sinclair, at about three months' notice.

Natalya Rangiawha works into the final hour. Photo / Supplied
Natalya Rangiawha works into the final hour. Photo / Supplied

The record was lauded by Sir David Fagan as one of the great moments in shearing in New Zealand.

Fagan was unable to attend the big day, but said he felt the vibes from 140kms away.

"There are some great things happening for shearing at the moment. This takes it to another level".

Fagan said Whitehead now loomed as a serious challenger to the solo women's record of 648 set by Emily Welch, of Waikaretu, in 2007.


"Wouldn't that be a great day. I wouldn't miss that one" he said.

Organiser Jills Angus-Burney, who in 1989 shore a solo nine-hours record of 541, was overwhelmed by the support for a record, that cost about $15,000 to stage.

CP Wool was the major sponsor and dozens of volunteers came from around the country to help prepare the Romney lambs, the shed, and to work throughout the day, or support the women to get them over the line.

The facts:

A world four-stand women's nine-hours strong wool lambs shearing record of 2066 lambs was establish at Waihi-Pukawa Station, Turangi, on Thursday, January 23, 2020.

Shearers shore the standard nine-hour day of five runs, the first of two hours, the remaining four of 1hr 45min each.


The runs were 5am-7am, 8am-9.45am, 10.15am-Midday, 1pm-2.45pm, 3.15pm-5pm.

Megan Whitehead (134, 117, 117, 118, 122) 608

Sarah Higgins (120, 105, 98, 98, 106) 528

Natalya Rangiawha (116, 95, 97, 97, 102) 507

Amy Silcock (93, 81, 80, 83, 86) 423