Golden Shears shines despite wool industry woes

Thousands of Kiwis flocked to the annual Golden Shears competition in Masterton on Saturday.

But removing the fleeces of reluctant sheep isn't the only challenge facing the industry.

Farmers are grappling with a fall in price and demand for their wool.

Former Golden Shears president Greg Herrick said despite it being 62 years old, "it's an amazing event".

Around 500 competitors took part in this year's Golden Shears, fleecing thousands of sheep that travelled from as far as central Otago.

"It's still going very strong. We've seen record numbers of young people entering this year," Herrick said.

While all eyes will be on the Open Shearing Finals on Saturday night, there was still plenty of interest in the junior categories earlier today.

The title went to 20-year-old Kaivah Cooper from Napier.

"I started after school, I didn't finish I dropped out, I just got working as a presser picking up the wool, then I finally got a turn on the stand and I just loved it," Cooper said.

But this isn't the only competition Kiwi farmers are facing. Synthetic products and cheap foreign wool mean demand's fallen for New Zealand produce.

"We've seen prices sort of falling all the time now in recent years. Why is it falling? Well, China used to take a lot of our wool," Herrick said

And with New Zealand's ratio of sheep to people the lowest it's been in over 150 years, there are real concerns about the sector's future.

"I think there's a lot of empathy in the sheep market today, when you're not getting a return on your wool, when it's costing you to shear wool, sooner or later you run out of that energy and think if it worth it," Herrick said.

But given the turnout at today's Golden Shears event, organisers believe there's still plenty of hope for the industry.