Teen shearer Blake McFarlane finds plenty of work during labour shortage

Blake McFarlane knew he wanted to be a shearer when he was 11.

Now at 16, he has left school, moved out of home, and is working full time as a shearer.

Blake is the youngest person on his shearing team near Cranbrook in WA’s Great Southern.

He said he didn’t know any other shearers his age.

“It’s a job that you’ve got to be able to wake up every morning and say, ‘I need to work hard’,” he said.

New goals set
Blake said he averaged about 515 sheep crutching, which was removing the wool from around the tail and rear legs, or 137 shearing each day.

He said he hoped to get quicker on the clippers very soon.

His goal is to shear 500 a day, take on the eight-hour speed shearing record, and own a farm.

The dream was sparked five years ago when he stepped into a shed and shore his first sheep.

“It was a little crossy ram lamb and at first it took me about one day to get my back in check,” he said.

He was inspired as he watched experienced shearers work.

“I was watching them all and they were peeling them out, and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do, I want to be a shearer’,” he said.

Other rural passions
Blake imagines himself shearing for the rest of his life as well as continuing an egg business he started about three years ago.

“I run about 1,400 hens,” he said.

“While I’m out shearing, I have my mum and dad, Joanne and Shane McFarlane, looking after it for me until I come back on weekends,” he said.

He said his parents were proud of the path he had chosen.

“Dad makes a joke about it, that I’ll be a contractor one day,” he said.

High demand in labour shortage
With labour shortages in the shearing industry, Blake said he was not expecting a break as a young, fit shearer any time soon.

“I don’t think this year we’ll have a break from shearing, I think we’ll just go right the way through till next year,” he said.

“I don’t really mind working hard.”