Matthew Hall, from Pomeroy, County Tyrone, is the winner of Ulster Wool’s new Training & Development programme.
The 17-year-old is currently studying at Royal School Dungannon for his A-levels and lives on a sheep farm at the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains where his family have a flock of Blackface ewes alongside his own flock of pedigree Dorsets.
The new Ulster Wool Shearing Training & Development Programme was launched earlier this year and offers one winner from each UK nation the opportunity of winning 12 months of training as well as a Lister Shearing prize package worth £500.
At the beginning of the 12 month programme the training aspect will include attending an Ulster Wool machine shearing course, followed by a gear course, a wool handling course and completing the programme would be a second machine shearing course.
The development aspect would give Matthew the opportunity to get advice from experienced Ulster Wool shearing instructors and also, depending on availability and shearing ability, the opportunity to gain on farm experience working with a shearing contractor.
During the 12 month programme the four UK winners will also visit Ulster Wool parent company British Wool’s head office and wool grading depot in Yorkshire as well as a scouring plant to follow the wool supply chain process.
After being announced as the Northern Ireland winner, Matthew said: “I’m delighted to be given this opportunity by Ulster Wool.
“From a young age I have always had a keen interest in shearing and enjoyed watching competitions at various shows.
“I loved helping dad put the wool into bales as world shearing record holder Ivan Scott clipped the sheep at our farm.
“His speed and precision was unbelievable and he is definitely someone young shearers look up to.
“Last year, after the first lockdown, I started shearing our own ewes, maybe not the quickest but I got them done.
“I feel I am ready to start shearing more sheep and feel I’d learn a great deal from attending the different courses on offer as part of this Ulster Wool programme.”
Matthew continues: “On the actual shearing, this opportunity will allow me to improve my technique and learn new skills, especially the correct way to hold and move the sheep as you clip.
“This not only benefits me but also the sheep themselves. The gear courses would also be extremely beneficial to understand better what equipment is needed, how to prepare for shearing and in maintaining the gear.
“The Lister Shearing prize package offered with the competition will be fantastic and help to improve my gear.”
Richard Schofield, Shearing Manager, Ulster Wool, said: “On behalf of Ulster Wool I congratulate Matthew on his achievement in winning this competition in Northern Ireland.
“The standard of entries were extremely high and it was clear to see Matthew’s passion for shearing and in wanting to further develop on his existing knowledge and skills.”
Matthew concluded: “After I leave school I hope to study agriculture at college.
“Looking to the future, I’d like to clip on a trailer alongside professional shearers over the summer months.
“I think sheep shearing is a very rewarding and satisfying job, I am young and eager to learn and look forward to my 12 months with Ulster Wool on this training and development programme.”