Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 13:39 UK

Fear of shearing gangs shortage

Sheep shearing
Hundreds of sheep shearers travel to Scotland each year

Sheep shearers from New Zealand and Australia will be put off working in the UK by the cost of a new identity card, it has been claimed.

The Home Office introduced the cards to people from outside the European Economic Area last year.

They contain the fingerprints, name, date of birth, nationality and the person's right to be in the UK.

But the British Wool Marketing Board warned it could hit the sheep sector which relies on foreign shearers.

It said more than a quarter of the UK's 14.5 million sheep are sheared by gangs of shearers from New Zealand and Australia.

About 500 shearers work in the UK every summer, but the board claimed that so far only one had confirmed he would be coming.


The board said UK-based shearing contractors have told them the new biometric identity card system cost £200 per applicant and the single shearer to apply so far had to travel for eight hours for a three minute interview to supply identity details.

The introduction of the card was designed to support the UK Government's new Australian-style points based system for managed migration.

Last year, the BBC Scotland news website reported how efforts were being made to reverse a decline in sheep shearers in Scotland.

The workforce is ageing, with fewer young people entering what is considered one of the most labour-intensive jobs in farming.

The Scottish Shearing Association hoped the lure of world travel would encourage more to take it up professionally.

Initiatives tried last year, included a fun Scotland versus England challenge to help send a young shearer to New Zealand to work.

Contract shearer, Will Dickson, from Duns, in the Borders, said at the time that the fall in numbers had been gradual over the last 10 years.

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