31 Jan 2023

Blade-shearer Evalyn McGregor

From Nights, 10:40 pm on 31 January 2023

Evalyn McGregor is New Zealand's only full-time female blade shearer.

With a pair of special scissors, the 23-year-old currently shears 100 sheep a day and aims to double that number in the future.

Southland blade shearer Evalyn McGregor

Southland blade shearer Evalyn McGregor Photo: ODT

Evalyn is based in the Southland farming town of Otautau, but in shearing season does most of her work in the mountainous MacKenzie Country.

Sheep on high-country farms need a little wool left on to protect them from fierce weather, Evalyn says, and shearing them with a blade can achieve this.

"It leaves that little bit of extra protection on the sheep and their survival rate is a lot higher."

Although it doesn't pay as well as machine shearing, blade-shearing offers a good social life, she says, and the opportunity to work alongside and learn from world champions like Allan Oldfield.

Evalyn's current record for the most sheep sheared in a day is 130. She hopes to get up to 150 per day in the next shearing season and hit 200 per day in the future.

Although it's "very nerve-wracking", she has already competed at the Waimate Shears competition and hopes to represent New Zealand at the World Blade Shearing Championships someday.

"In the build-up, I get quite nervous but after a wee while you forget about the crowd."

Growing up in Glenorchy, Evalyn spent a lot of time in shearing sheds while her mother worked as a rousey (shearing assistant).

By becoming a professional, she has fulfilled not only her own dream but also that of her mother, who died when Evalyn was 17.

"My mum always wanted to get a stand shearing and she never really got the opportunity so I sort of did it for both of us."

Two of Evalyn's siblings have also followed their mum into the shearing shed - her sister also worked as a rousey and her brother is a machine shearer in Australia.

"I've got a nice big family to keep me entertained," she says.


Blades of Glory

Commercial blade-shearers Phil and Allan Oldfield chat to Country Life.

She Shears: a documentary about New Zealand's shearing women

The director of a film about five blade-wielding, wool-handling Kiwi women chats to Kathryn Ryan.