FARMING MATTERS: Retiring from role with sheep

Colin MacGregor, former Head of Shearing at British Wool
Colin MacGregor, former Head of Shearing at British Wool

Years ago I had a pet ewe, a Suffolk/Jacob cross who was chocolate brown in colour. She was a triplet and her mother couldn’t feed all three so I bought her from our neighbour and hand reared her for a year, giving her milk from a bottle and pieces of bread.

She lived in the garden for a long time and often came into the house. I took her for walks and she followed me everywhere. I even took her when I visited the homes of (very understanding) relatives and friends.

Eventually of course she had to go and live with our own Mule and Masham flock, but she was better than any sheepdog when it came to rounding them up. All I had to do was call her name and she followed me and led the ewes to wherever they were needed.

Recently, I received an email from British Wool, the body that represents the interests of the UK’s wool industry, to inform me that one of its key figures, Colin MacGregor, has recently retired as Shearing Manager.

A former world renowned Scottish shearing champion, Mr MacGregor has not only played a major role in British Wool, he has made a key contribution to the progression and standard of shearing across the UK. One of his early roles with British Wool was as a shearing instructor and when he started there was only one course available. Today, British Wool offers hundreds of courses, at all levels, and for every aspect of shearing and wool preparation.

From the outset his philosophy was to set the proper foundation so that every young person wishing to learn to shear was taught correctly from the word go.

Now, while shearing is at an all time high, Mr MacGregor acknowledges there have been major industry changes. He said: “There are fewer sheep than 20 years ago, however the quality of our sheep is exceptional, and I believe our farmers are producing some of the very best in the world.

“It disappoints me that wool in general is undervalued, so the challenge of the future is to get more people to understand and appreciate the versatility of this natural fibre, so it can attract more markets and better returns.”

He said there was a bright future for shearers and a good living to be made from it, with chances to work in Australia and New Zealand.