Shear determination: Bill English makes the cut against Sir David Fagan

When Bill English retires from politics, he could be destined for a life back on the farm if his challenge with the country's best shearer is anything to go by.

The Prime Minister wasn't sheepish when he accepted the challenge go head-to-head with Sir David Fagan at the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Southland on Saturday.

The Dipton farmer turned PM Bill English takes shears to his sheep (Dave Goosselink / Newshub.)
The Dipton farmer turned PM takes shears to his sheep (Dave Goosselink / Newshub.)

The fifth-generation Southland farmer is by no means new to the art of shearing sheep, but admits he isn't the best in his large family.

But despite that, he won the competition with Sir David, though he's convinced it wasn't a fair match-up.

"He wasn't going as fast as he might have, let's put it that way," Mr English said afterward.

But Sir David was adamant it was an even competition.

"He won it fair and square."

It's been a year since Mr English had got that close to a sheep, putting his skills to the test at the Southern Field Days in Waimumu last year. 

"But before that I can't quite remember.

"It's a bit like riding a bike, you hope you're not going to forget - particular around the front shoulder, which is a bit tricky," he says.

Sir David, who has set world records and won the Golden Shears 16 times, was full of praise for the Prime Minister's efforts.

"He did very well - he even got a sweat up, which is great."

Sir David retired from competitive shearing in 2015.

Mr English joked he was "just getting warmed up".

"I could do another half dozen."

It was a challenge Sir David jokingly jumped at: "Well, c'mon then."

Despite Mr English's successful return to his farming roots, Sir David doesn't think he should give up his day job just yet - and the Prime Minister agreed.

"I can do shearing when I retire."

The weekend event, held at ITL Stadium Southland, will around 4000 people attend.