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24 HOUR CHARITY SHEAR
by Eilidh MacPherson
Shearing a normal Kiwi style, 8-hour day with four, two hour runs, separated by two half hour 'smoko' breaks and an hour for lunch is considered to be equal to running two marathons back to back!
A 21 year old shearer from New Luce, Dumfries and Galloway, is pulling out all the stops and going for a 24-hour charity shear. Grant Hurcomb, who has been shearing full time for four years, will be putting in nineteen and a half hours of the 24-hour period behind the handpiece. He intends to shear in noraml two-hour runs interspersed with 8 half hour breaks!
As far as I am aware this is the first 24-hour sheep shearing marathon to be staged in UK. Several have taken place in Australia in the past few years and one quite recently in New Zealand.
Grant is fund raising for two charities, which are close to his heart – Cancer Research and Diabetes UK. "Having had close family members deal with both these conditions in recent years these charities are of great significance to me and my family. We appreciate more than most what Cancer Research and Diabetes UK do for anyone affected by these illnesses and this is what inspired me to challenge myself to this marathon sheep shear."
Having grown up in shearing circles, with his uncle Jiimmy Hislop contract sheep shearing in SW Scotland, employing sheep shearers from New Zealand and the UK, including his father – Bill Hurcomb – Grant secured his first tally of 100 in a day at the age of just 13.
By 14 years old Grant was shearing two days a week for his uncle. At 15 he tallied 200 in a day and at 17 he made the 300 mark, during his first full season working for his uncle. He then scored his first '400' as a nineteen year old.
Grant left school at 16 and attended an agricultural block release course at the Barony College, working for Lamont Hiar, High Balyett Farm, Stranraer. The Hair family are now hosting the SHEAR24 event on their farm with sheep being floated in from various properties by John Clark Haulage.
"I'm using a tailor-made catching pen system, which Joel Barton used for his lamb record. It only holds about 18 or 19 lambs so will take fewer ewes," commented grant, who took a full stand in New Zealand aged 18 and has since done a further two seasons in the Land of the Big White Cloud and two in Australia.
"I prefer working in Ozzie as you are paid the equivalent of £2/hd and fed all day by the farmer, so if you shear 200 in a day you make £400. In New Zealand it is only NZ$1.25/hd (60p), so in NZ you have to shear over 660 sheep to make the same money." Grant hopes to get a working visa sorted out for Australia again this year.
This young shearer favours Heiniger Shearing gear, using Redback handpieces and Heiniger Edge cutters. "In NZ and the UK I use Quantum and Charger combs, while in Australia I use X-Press combs and som Chinese combs with a 6-7mm bevel on tougher Merino sheep."
In the off season Grant works for his father scanning ewes and then does a couple of lambings at Glen Triplock and Stair Estates, followed by a month tail docking, before the shearing season swings into action.
The Hurcomb's scn over 160 000 ewes up into Renfrewshire and as far West as Dumfries from December. "Over the past five years we have noticed that the number of yield Blackface gimmers is getting higher across the board, but the farms with more empties have more twins," informed Bill Hurcomb.
"Twenty-five years ago one to a score of Blackies were yield, now it is more than one and a half to two empty."
But on the whole it has been quite a good scanning across the breeds. "You are only going to get what the ground will give you, unless you are putting the sheep on a ressed and flushing them."
One of their commercial Blackface farmers changed over to running Lleyns as he couldn't get his Blackie gimmers in lamb. The mformer were running 15% empty, now his ewes are 2-3% yeld. "He only has the Lleyn tups out for 17 days – one turn – and then uses a teminal sire thereafter. He selects his ewe lamb replacements from the first turn. Not saying Lleyns are the answer, but nthey work well for this farm."
The Hurcomb's have farmed Meikle Tongue – a 120 acre holding on Stair Estates – on a 350-day lease for the past 21 years. They run 240 cross ewes and 25 pure Texel ewes, which belong to Grant. The ewes are sent away to grass to be tupped.
In the run up to the event Grant has started running 5-6km a night, cycling and swimming to build up his stamina. With a top personal best of 445 in an 8 hour day, Grant is hoping to shear around 680-780 sheep in the 19 and a half hours, aiming to average 35-40 an hour.
His uncle Jimmy hislop and his shearing gang and local contractor Jamie Walker and his crew will be back up, penning up and urgin on. Carol McKenna and Libby Templeton, who organised the Lady Shear a couple of years back, along with Grant's sister Nicola are wool handling.
"Caterer Sally Hair is providing a hog roast and we are putting on a barn dance, which starts at the beginning of the last run, to give me a boost. I'll hopefully be around the 700 mark by then."
The Hurcomb's sent fliers out to their farming customers along with their scanning invoices and had already received donations amounting to £500 before lambing time.
Grant has set up a Just Giving page – Grant's SHEAR24.
The event runs from 9pm Friday 26th June – Saturday night late.
Hog Roast and Barn Dance