A WORD FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE AMTM
« For the first time since it began 40 years ago, the World Sheep Shearing Championships is coming to France in 2019. After two years of reflection, the team that organised the French Shears and the 6 Nations tournament in 2013, felt motivated and ready to take on the challenge. Subsequently, a group made up of ATM (French sheep shearers association) members, but not exclusively, created the AMTM (Association pour le Mondial de Tonte de Moutons) on the 8th of December 2015 with its headquarters located in Le Dorat. There were a number of aims: to put France in the spotlight, and to showcase our region, our agriculture, our expertise… via a profession which is essential to animal well-being, but which is also a sport that is largely unknown amongst the French population.
Our main objective in 2016 was to prepare our bid to host the championship, then to go and present it, in a similar way to the Olympic Games, in front of the World Council international committee which met on the 8th of February 2017 during the World Sheep Shearing Championships in New Zealand. Strengthened by what we have already achieved, by all the volunteers involved at our side, and by the commitment of our partners, this event can only be a success. The 5000 sheep needed for the shearing competitions are available locally and will be selected for their homogeneity. Support from our public and private partners will allow us to attain our 650 000 € budget needed to run the 2019 World event effectively. The tourist offices are ready to take the reservations for hotels, B&Bs, and campsites, but also to help us spread the word about this event.
Everything began for the village of Le Dorat, and for Christophe Riffaud and his team in 2013, when the French Championships and the 6 nations tournament were held in the village. Motivated by the success of this two-day event, with 150 competitors, 60 partner organisations, and 1800 sheep, the group of volunteers decided to take on a crazy challenge: to organize the World Sheep Shearing Championships in 2019, in Le Dorat. In December 2015, and after two years of reflection, the AMTM was created (World Sheep Shearing Championships Association). Its membership consisted of people from all professional horizons and all regions of France. From that point on time was short. There was only one year to prepare a strong bid, including all the technical, financial, and logistical elements. These Championships meant 5000 sheep to locate, 300 sheep shearers
and companions to accommodate, 30 000 persons to welcome and feed. In a country where sheep shearing is not well known, and even less as a sport, the team had an enormous task ahead. During this time every opportunity to communicate about sheep shearing and the project was seized. The International Agricultural Salon, in Paris, in February 2016 was the starting point, followed by all the major national agricultural events, but also more local events, whether they were on a regional, district or village scale. The whole public needed to be informed, both to understand what sheep shearing is about but also the aims of the project. Because this was the strategy: use word-of-mouth to pass on the information, and get people talking about the AMTM via all possible channels and networks. Through this strategic work, the project was able to expand and attract financial partners, both public and private, which was the second major challenge.
THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AND 24-HOUR SHEEP SHEARING EVENT UNDER
THE HIGH PATRONAGE OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
In 2017, Invercargill, New Zealand, France’s bid to host the Golden Shear’s World Sheep Shearing and Woolhandling Championship was accepted. In 2019, Le Dorat will host the World Championship for the first time in France. On 23 April the AMTM received a letter from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture confirming that the Minister, Stephane Travert, willingly agreed for the Ministry to grant its high patronage to the World Sheep Shearing Championship.
Christophe RIFFAUD (President of the AMTM – professional sheep shearer and competitor)
SHEEP SHEARING, A PHYSICAL AND TECHNICAL PROFESSION
There are about 200 professional shearers in France within the Association for Sheep Shearers – ATM – which is the only independent organization that represents these professionals. It has three main areas of activity:
Training courses for aspiring shearers by shearing instructors, The organisation of national and international competitions, The publication of a professional magazine “Deshabillez-moi”.
You don’t need to have phenomenal strength to be a shearer, but you do need stamina, suppleness in the back and all the joints, and good social skills. The most widely practiced technique, recommended by the ATM, is
the Bowen or New Zealand method and the ATM has produced a booklet aimed at students on their beginners’ courses. This method combines an efficient way to work with all ovine races with respect for the animal and a relaxed shearer (minimizing the level of fatigue). It also facilitates the collection and sorting of the fleeces.
In 1958 a group of young sheep farmers had the idea of organizing a sheep shearing competition. The shearers from the Land of the Long White Cloud came to compete with speed and skill. Thanks to the success of the competition and the enthusiasm of the public, Laurie Keats, Lain Douglas and Graham Buckley organized the first Golden Shears event in the Memorial Stadium, Masterston in 1961. The crowds flocked to watch the competition which was broadcast on television and which featured the biggest names in shearing. As a result, international contests between NZ and Australia were arranged. Major sponsors arrived, attracted by the extent of the media coverage, and the first World Championships took place in 1977. The Golden Shears World Council, created in 1980 by New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain, set the rules and
ensured their enforcement.
The World Championships has taken place every two years since then. French Shearers, under the ATM banner,
compete at these championship events which are held mainly in the Southern hemisphere. As yet, although they have been close, no French competitor has ever reached the final round of the World Championships. However, the standard of French competitors has greatly improved as a result of work exchanges abroad and participation in competitions there. Here in France, in addition to the French championships, the ATM organises competitions each year throughout the country to raise the standard and profile of the sport and the profession. Professional shearing involves a truly athletic performance, requiring its participants to train like other athletes: training
involves a wide range of exercises including swimming, football, and, during competitions, cardio-vascular workouts. If competing against other teams, some of whom are the world’s best, raises the standard of French shearing, then training equally enables the expertise and skill of each shearer to develop and the shearer to gain a sharper mental edge. In contrast to New Zealand, where training can be integrated into the school curriculum, the university system or even higher level studies, there is no structured coaching or competition training in France due to the lack of time and money. In spite of this, French shearers have made enormous strides in improving their competitiveness on the world stage. On a psychological level, competitors often isolate themselves during competitions, as in all sports, to prepare themselves mentally using techniques such as yoga
A PROFESSION WITH AN ATHLETIC DISCIPLINE
SHEARING TRAINING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
In response to the needs of professionals, and individual farmers, shearing training courses were put in place several years ago and are aimed at different audiences and different levels: from initiation and beginners’ courses to advanced courses and additional training in woolhandling and blade shearing. The ATM courses are aimed at people who want to shear their own sheep, as well as those who want to become professional shearers. The initiation courses are a good base for farmers and shepherds who would like to know more about the tools of the shearing trade, and how and when to use them for the benefit of their sheep. The beginner’s shearing course is aimed individuals who wish to become professional shearers and teaches the New Zealand method. This method has been shown to be the most effective for the tools used and for the collection of the wool in view of it being transformed. The shearer should subsequently be able to shear a ewe in complete
autonomy. A three-day course is naturally only a start, and it is recommended that beginners join a team of experienced shearers in order to hone their new skills. Learning from experienced shearers is the best way to avoid getting into bad habits whilst still learning the trade. Advanced courses are available to perfect the skills and rhythm needed to be a fast shearer whilst at the same time being aware of the needs and well-being of the sheep.
SHEARING IS NECESSARY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF THE SHEEP
Wool is a fibre that grows continuously, and an un-managed fleece becomes a damp and matted environment where mould can grow and all manner of insects and parasites can and do live. Wool provides excellent insulation, so sheep can also get heatstroke in hot weather, as they are unable to sweat: shearing is therefore vital for the health of the sheep.
SHEARING DOES NOT HARM SHEEP
The method used by professional shearers allows the animal to literally relax and let go as it has no footing to be able to lift itself up. It is not hindered in any way and can move freely. No physical force is applied to keep the animal in place while it is being shorn. Sheep are shorn before they are fed, as the position they lie in would otherwise cause discomfort. Cuts are rare, and mostly superficial, and are treated immediately. Shearing is best done when the sheep are dry, there is not much wind, and the temperature is above 10C. Shearing gives man a wonderful natural product, but it is also vital for the well-being and good health of the sheep. It is for this reason that an apprentice learns to put comfort of the sheep first during training out of respect for the animal. We will now talk about how “handling” is taught to beginners. How to handle and move the sheep into different positions during shearing, due to the constraints of the machine, is a major part of the training of a shearer. As one hand is holding the machine and the other is moving across the animal’s skin to allow the machine to pass easily, this leaves the knees and feet to move the animal into different positions. Before an apprentice even touches the
shearing machine, their instructor will make them practice many times this sequence of movements and the different positions with a ewe between their legs. Sheep handling has to come before sheep shearing.
DEMONSTRATING THE VALUE OF FRENCH WOOL
Sheep’s wool has, for a long time, been used as an everyday material thanks to the diversity of its products: clothing, mattress making, bedding, interior décor including mats, carpets, sheets, fabrics, objects… It used to be a complementary source of income for the farmers, but then it was taken over by the textile industry and abandoned after the Second World war due to the development of synthetic fibres. On the French market, 100% French wool (collected, washed, and processed entirely in France) has become a rare product. In 2013, more than 8 000 tonnes among the 15 000 tonnes produced were exported, including 5 400 tonnes to Asia (FAO Stat, 2013), to be partly imported back into France after being washed and processed. Of the remaining 7 000 tonnes,
some wool was transformed in France and the rest was disposed of after shearing
Wool has become a burden for farmers, its market value rarely covering the shearing costs. Moreover, sheep selection for meat or milk production, has gradually become disassociated from the characteristics of the wool, leading to a deterioration in wool quality. Nevertheless, an opportunity for the development of the wool industry exists in the current consumer trends which favour natural materials and « made in France » products. For several years now private and public initiatives of wool recovery have been emerging at local and regional levels and have managed to reconquer some of the market. The interests of artisans and industry have converged, leading to them to use the same networks for wool transformation for productions in France. Furthermore, France benefits from its huge diversity of sheep breeds (about sixty). This diversity, which is a handicap for the
industrial sector, is an attraction for processors and consumers who are interested in unique products, with their own local characteristics and a guaranteed origin. In the large nursing basin, most of the ewes originate from crosses between the Rouge de l’Ouest / Vendéen and Charolaise breeds in the Poitou-Charentes region, and Suffolk or Texel / Charolaise or even Suffolk / Texel in the Limousin region. The Charmois is used in the two regions for rutting the hoggets. Traditional breeding is mostly conducted in the semi-outdoors with two lambing seasons. The 2019 World Championships will be an opportunity to present the diversity of the French breeds, their wool, and the uniqueness of the products that are created as a result. The goal is therefore to highlight the link between the freshly shorn wool and the transformed wool, and demonstrate the potential of this important underused by-product of sheep breeding.
THE TRADITION OF SHEEP REARING IN FRANCE
On a world-wide scale, France may not have the largest national flock, but it does have a strong tradition of sheep farming. Originally orientated towards wool, leather and meat production, these largely family-run farms have diversified and turned more towards the production of quality meat products with the wool becoming an undervalued by-product. Therein lies the importance of France’s bid to host the World Sheep Shearing Championship. Sheep rearing in France is not for wool or leather, but above all for meat and cheese. Quality production using the AOP and IGP systems of quality control guarantee the geographical origin and quality of meat and cheese: local and identifiable producers are becoming a more and more important selling point for the consumers. French gastronomy is based on local, identifiable produce, for example the Baronet lamb which is produced in the area around Le Dorat. Discovering a different food culture is another of the unique selling points that helped the AMTM win the bid to host the Championship.
THE NATIONAL FLOCK
There are seven million sheep in France, one million of which are used for milk production. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie have 4 million of the 7 million. Le Dorat is in the north-east of Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the Haute-Vienne department (87), a very rural, agricultural area: 60% of the land is farmed, 80% of that is pasture and a significant contributor to the environmental richness of the Haute-Vienne. Beef cattle and sheep are the main animals reared. The Haute-Vienne is the department with the largest number of nursing ewes (250 000), and the area around Le Dorat is especially important for the rearing of spring lamb around the month of March. The shearing seasons is spread over the period of late spring and early summer except for the ewes lambing in the off-season when shearing happens before lambing. The summer is therefore dedicated to the shearing of hoggets and lambs from the beginning of July, the period in which the 2019 World Championships will be taking place, so sourcing the sheep for the competitions should not pose a problem. If we take into account the 250 000 ewes in the Haute-Vienne, together with 60 000 in the bordering departments (Vienne, Charente, Indre, Creuse), there are no less than 300 000 ewes to be found in a radius of up to one hour around Le Dorat. The competition programme requires 5000 hoggets, lambs and ewes and these animals will be found in a 30-minute radius of the site.
Woolhandling is judged in two different areas. On the podium or board, the work of the competing woolhandlers is judged during the competition. Then, off the podium, after the competitors have sorted the wool, their rolled fleeces are presented to the judges. There are two types of wool for judging: the “full-wool” fleece (12-month wool) which is thrown onto and sorted (or blended) on a special slatted table, then rolled and placed into a container; and the lamb’s wool which is sorted on the ground.
Each competitor works with 2 dedicated shearers who shear a certain number of ewes in shifts, depending on which round it is in the competition. During this time the competitor must sort and separate the different parts of the fleece and the oddments: the belly wool, tail and crutch wool, socks, locks, discoloured wool and the long wool (main part of the fleece). These are then put into different containers. For the full wool fleeces, competitors gain penalty points (during the throwing of the fleece onto the table) for any wool that falls to the floor and for parts that do not lie flat and fully exposed on the table. Lambs’ fleeces have to be well-aired. Zero penalty points indicates a well-aired fleece and 35 penalty points means a badlyaired fleece. Once the last of the two shearers switches off their machine, the timer is started, therefore time plays an essential part in woolhandling. The wool containers and bins are then examined to ensure that the wool has been correctly sorted; any mixing of wool, particularly in the main container containing the rolled fleece is penalized.
THE WORLD SHEEP HEARING CHAMPIONSHIP, A COMPLEX SCORING SYSTEM
To give a score to a competitor, three factors are taken in to consideration. We will demonstrate this with an example.
Shearing a sheep quickly minimises the stress of the animal, which is the most important factor. While shearing, a competitor is penalised three points for every minute of shearing (or 1 point per 20 seconds), so for example 8 sheep in 8minutes costs 24 time points.
QUALITY OF SHORN FLEECE
For each bit of fleece that the shearer has to go back over (a second cut), marks are deducted according to the quality of the wool cut twice. So if our shearer has to concede 12 points for 8 sheep shorn, the 12 is divided by 8 to give an average of 1,5 points which is then added to the time penalties. By now, our shearer has lost 25.5 points (24 + 1.5).
QUALITY OF FINAL WORK, INCLUDING RESPECT OF THE ANIMAL
Behind the podium, judges evaluate the quality of the shear, seeing if there are any cuts or marks on the animal, uneven levels of shearing or uncut fleece. For our shearer, the judges have found wool on the neck (4 points), on the rump (3 points), a cut the size of a 10 cent piece (2 points) so 9 points for this sheep. For the 8 sheep, our shearer lost 56 points, which is divided by 8, for the number of sheep, to give 7 points, so overall, our shearer lost 24 + 1.5 + 7 points = 32.5 points. Good work, he should qualify for the next round!
GLOSSARY OF THE DIFFERENT CLASSES IN SHEARING COMPETITIONS
JUNIOR CLASS: In France this means competitors who began shearing in the same year as the competition,
so for a competition in 2017, the participants must have started shearing in 2017.
INTERMEDIATE CLASS: amateurs, occasional shearers and beginners whose average daily tally does not exceed 100 merinos (packed wool, fine skin, delicate cutting), 150 for breeds with open wool (loose wool, Texel,
Suffolk, Vendée …) and 250 Lacaunes, with very open wool and little wool on the belly and neck areas Limousine, Caussenardes du Lot …)
SENIOR CLASS: experienced shearers whose best daily tallies do not exceed 150 Merinos, 250 sheep with open wool and 400 Lacaunes.
OPEN CLASS: These are advanced shearers of a high international standard whose best
days of work exceed the Seniors’ scores.
BLADES: This is the name of the shears. Blade shearing is one of three categories in the World Championship, separate to the shearing performed with electric machine shears.
WOOLHANDLING: World Championship category which consists of sorting or “blending” wool.
MACHINE SHEARING: See Blades
PROGRAMME FROM 1ST TO 8TH JULY 2019
MONDAY 1 JULY
Arrival of delegations
Speed Shearing event in Limoges
TUESDAY 2 JULY
Organized visits to farms
Judges briefing meetings
Forum meetings for competitors
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY
Meeting of the World Council (delegates)
THURSDAY 4 JULY
Half-day organized visits
Heats: All Nations competition Junior, Intermediate, Women,
Semi-finals: All Nations
Junior, Intermediate, Women
Heats: All Nations – Woolhandling
Finals: All Nations
Junior, Intermediate, Women
Test match: France v Wales
Medal ceremony, inauguration, opening ceremony
Local Producer’s market and open barbecue
FRIDAY 5 JULY:
Heats: All Nations
Semi-finals – All Nations
Semi-finals – French Championship
Round 1: World Championship – Machine Shearing
Finals: French Championship
Blades, Woolhandling, Senior, Open
Evening: Medal ceremony, live music and restaurant on site,
Gala meal for delegations and officials
SATURDAY 6 JULY
Round 1: World Championship
Round 2: World Championship
Semi-finals: All Nations
Woolhandling (Senior, Open), Blades, Open
Finals: All Nations
Woolhandling (Senior, Open)
Contest: France – Spain
Finals: All Nations
Forces, Senior, Open
SUNDAY 7 JULY
Round 2: World Championship
Round 3: World Championship
Semi-finals: World Championship
Blades, Woolhandling, Machine shearing
Finals: World Championship Team competitions
Blades, Woolhandling, Machine shearing
Finals: World Championship
Blades, Woolhandling, Machine shearing
Medal Ceremony and Closing ceremony
Live music and restaurant on site
Alongside the competitions there will be different events and activities amongst which there will be an
exhibition village and village of wool, stands for local products, a presentation of different sheep breeds in
France, herd dog demonstrations and a restaurant and mobile catering area.
Association pour le Mondial de Tonte de Moutons
2 rue de l’Hozanne – 87210 Le Dorat
Asso.email@example.com @AmtmLeDorat www.facebook.com/AMTM.LeDorat2019
06 15 15 63 20
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