Episode 18: The Long Blow
David Buick on the shearing board. Photo by Jerome Cvitanovich.
David Buick's shearing gang in action. Photo by Jerome Cvitanovich.
Originally screened on 12 June at 7pm on TV ONE.
The Long Blow
Ever since he was a young man David Buick has had two goals. The first, to own a farm - the second, to earn a place in a Golden Shears final.
Income from shearing has helped him to get a farm - but earning a place among New Zealand's elite shearers at the country's premier shearing event has so far proved more elusive.
Country Calendar follows David in his build-up as he prepares to go for glory at Masterton's Golden Shears.
This year was the competition's 50th anniversary and 130 Open Class shearers - including David - lined up to seek the Grand Champion title.
Farming and shearing go hand in hand for the Buick family. David's Dad, Willy, has always shorn his own sheep and as the children came along, they were expected to help out in the family woolshed.
Willy Buick says that by primary school age, David knew all the shearing "blows" - the pattern of 40 or so cuts made with the shearing hand-piece to remove the fleece neatly from each sheep. He says David used to rehearse his shearing technique on his brothers and sisters, and began pleading for a hand-piece of his own from the age of nine.
"Father Christmas gave him one when he was about twelve," he says. "It turned out to be a pretty good investment."
David and wife Rebecca have run their 200 hectare property at Pongaroa, in northern Wairarapa, for nine years.
Shearing helped get the capital to buy the farm and keep it through some tough times.
As well as farming, David also organises a local shearing gang. Shearers can earn up to $1.80 per sheep and those with daily tallies over 300 can earn good money.
Despite the income on offer, David says few young men and women seem to be attracted to the sweat and guts that shearing demands. "There are not that many jobs where you go to work with eight litres of water and come home with the same amount in your sweat-towel," he says.
Shed shearing is very tough, he says. It has been estimated that someone shearing more than 300 sheep in an eight-hour day is catching, lifting and dragging around 20,000 kg.
For shearers at the very top level, the income is just one of the attractions of the work. In summer the elite shearers - those who can shear 400 or more a day - start getting their "show" gear ready for a round of competitions that culminate in the Golden Shears.
Rivalry is a natural extension of the job. Put two good shearers side by side and pretty soon they are racing each another.
David Buick is no exception. He loves the competitive side of the industry. Despite suffering from competition nerves, he made the top six of a big event in Te Kuiti last year. He knows that to get into the Golden Shears final, he will to have to be shearing at his absolute peak - and Country Calendar was on hand to follow his fortunes at this year's event.
- More info about the Golden Shears competition.