Mongolian shearer set for world stage

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Competing in The Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, to be held in Southland early next year, will be a new experience for Mongolian shearer Enkhnasan Chuluunbaatar.
Mr Chuluunbaatar (known as Nasa) is the only member of the Mongolian team registered to compete. He is from a nomadic herding background and is living in Golden Bay with his New Zealand wife, Zoe Leetch.
Ms Leetch said nomadic herders made up the large majority of Mongolia’s agriculture, herding camels, cattle, horses, sheep and goats, the last two being predominant.
‘‘Nasa’s family’s herd consists of several hundred sheep and goats, about 30 horses and a handful of cattle,’’ Ms Leetch said.
Most herders would have at least a couple of hundred sheep, and generally each herder and their extended family would shear their own sheep, she said.
‘‘They use large scissors, not blades, to shear the sheep, tying their legs together and doing first one side then the other.’’
Mr Chuluunbaatar learnt how to machine shear in New Zealand and has been working here for several years.
‘‘We intend to move back there in a couple of years and he plans to take a portable machine setup with us and introduce machine shearing to his area.’’
There were several marked differences in shearing between New Zealand and Mongolia.
The sheep in Mongolia were fat-tailed and generally had coarse or semi-coarse wool, she said. There were quite a number of different breeds, the most common being Khalkha, but they were all variations of a type most similar to Awassi, which was also found in New Zealand.
‘‘They survive extremely harsh conditions — highs of minus 20 and lows of minus 40 are not uncommon in winter, with very little shelter and no supplementary food.’’
The sheep had no wool on their legs or head, and the fleeces were often multicoloured, she said. ‘‘Wool is of little value and not a lot of care is taken of the fleeces during shearing — usually it is done outside on the ground and no part is separated.’’
There were not any competitions for shearing in Mongolia.
While living in New Zealand, Mr Chuluunbaatar had competed in A&P show shearing competitions in the South Island, but it would be a huge step up for him competing on the world stage, Ms Leetch said.