Farming and wool industry leader James Parsons took a break from the boardroom on Saturday to win the senior shearing final at the Whangarei A&P Show.
Chairman of grower-owned strong wool marketing and export company Wools of New Zealand, the major sponsor of Shearing Sports New Zealand, the Northland sheep and beef farmer helps organise the sheep for the show.
A former Nuffield scholar, he was chairman of Beef+Lamb NZ for four years — during the 2015 farmers levy referendum — and also a former member of the New Zealand Meat Board.
Parsons is now a board member at Ospri, and agricultural faculty Lincoln University.
Discarding the suit and tie and picking up the handpiece was an important contribution.
Parsons was one of only 11 shearers across the three grades, in the first of eight A&P show shearing competitions in the northern region during the summer.
“I thought I’d make up numbers by entering,” he said.
There were four in the senior event, and Parsons won the final from Northland competitions stalwarts Steve Coop and Alan Boler.
“I didn’t shear last year as was I busy ensuring all the sheep were kept up for the shearers,” he said.
“I surprised myself by doing okay this year.”
Parsons had shorn a few competitions more than 10 years ago and once made an intermediate final.
In recent years he had competed only once, two years ago, and also to make up the numbers.
Read more about shearing and woolhandling on The Country here.
He said Saturday’s workout was enough to give him a taste for more.
“I will try to do a couple of shows this year.”
Parsons has a hankering for the North Hokianga A&P Show on February 17 at Broadwood, the northernmost competition on the Shearing Sports New Zealand schedule for the 2023-24 season.
“That’s my old community, where I started shearing,” he said.
Parsons said he would be looking for entries in the North to improve as the post-Christmas events made more time available.
He said the downturn was “partially” attributable to the struggles of the wool sector — including the strong wool price decline over the past two decades — but it was “mostly the time of year and local gangs busy on show day”.
“Early December isn’t as good as a January or February show,” he said.
One who did make it to the show was Kaiwaka shearing contractor and nationally ranked shearer Toa Henderson, who had given the crew the day off to encourage them to compete at the show.
He scored the 20th win of his open-class career in New Zealand in a three-man final, his first win of the season following the triumphs of last season when he had 11 wins, four second placings and a third in 16 finals.
With a third placing at the Waimate Spring Shears in South Canterbury and fourth a week later at the Poverty Bay show in Gisborne behind him at the start of the season in October, Henderson could have been forgiven had he chosen instead at the weekend to travel to Rotorua to defend the Agrodome Shears he won in January last year.
Also with a best woolshed tally of over 900 lambs in nine hours last season, Henderson shore the 20-lamb final in about 16 minutes.
The runner-up was veteran Northland shows competitor Neville Osborne, of Dargaville, and Jayden Mainland, of Wellsford, was third in what was his first open final.
Hazel Wood, one of a group of female shearers whose path in shearing was featured in the 2018 movie She Shears, claimed the intermediate title but was the only shearer in the grade.
She also shore in the open heats, to help make up the numbers.
It was the last pre-Christmas Saturday of the Shearing Sports New Zealand season, which resumes with the Peninsula Duvauchelle Shears near Christchurch on January 13, with five competitions spanning almost the length of New Zealand the following Friday and Saturday — including the Kaikohe A&P Show in the North and the Winton A &P Show in the South on January 20.