The three women who stepped up to the boards at Pukekauri Farm near Katikati to remove the wool from 71 hoggets this week represent the current and future generations of shearers.

Megan Wilson, a member of the well-known Wilson family of shearers, used the opportunity to continue her mentoring of 22-year-old Jess Lusby and her 21-year-old sister Abby.

"Shearing is not just about removing wool; it's cultural too with roots which go back thousands of years," says Megan.

"Women have always been part of the shearing culture, including the industry roles of wool-handling, wool-classing, judging competitions, wool marketing and production, intermingled with crafts handed down through the generations within the culture of spinning, weaving and knitting.


"Today more and more women are also shearing professionally."

That pleases Megan and she's glad the next generation, including Jess and Abby, will find it a little easier to be accepted on the shearing boards.

"I think women like myself and others of my generation who waited for a turn to shear, often at smoko, and felt they had to prove they could shear as well as men, have paved the way for this generation. I think we also influenced our male counterparts to see their daughters as shearers too."

Jess, who is a shepherd on Pukekauri Farms, took up the shears when she was about 13, after pestering her father, well-known local shearer John Lusby, to give her a turn.

In the woolshed on Monday, her sister Abby was the wool handler, clearing wool away as it was shorn and packing it into a bale. She's also done a little shearing and is keen to do more.

Slightly built Jess handled ewes weighing almost as much as herself and Megan says that's where modern shearing gear and technique comes in.

"You need core strength and good hand-eye coordination. The agile response and ability to manage the movement of the animal to present the wool to the moving, flowing hand-piece takes a few seasons shearing to learn.

"It's a good thing we are just doing a few sheep today. In a shearing team situation, the expectations to shear numbers in a short amount of time to reduce cost is the added pressure," says Megan.


Rick Burke of Pukekauri Farms is keen to encourage Jess' interest in shearing.

"Shearers can earn good money and women bring a calmness to the shed, which the animals sense."

Megan is no stranger to the farm. She's also a landscape designer and as owner of the company Earth Canvas Limited, she helped Pukekauri Farms owners John and Rick Burke with environmental plantings.

She has also landscaped John's urban garden at Mount Maunganui.

After an off-and-on shearing career spanning almost 40 years Megan still enjoys the work. Shearing has played a crucial role in her life, helping fund the studies that led to her landscape qualifications.