Shearing champion improves with age
Southland shearer Nathan Stratford is no stranger to a shearing shed and after 20 years on the circuits the national champ seems to only get better with age.
On March 1, Stratford, 39, won the PGG Wrightson national circuit final at the Golden Shears, an award that had eluded him for years.
Stratford was born and raised in Invercargill and had his first taste of winning when he won the junior title at 17.
"It's a bit like a disease, once you get placed you can't really get out of it," he said.
Since his first win he has competed up and down the country, as well as in Australia and Britain.
Stratford has been a South Island representative eight times since the 2001-2002 circuit and a trans-Tasman representative for the 2006-2007 and 2008-2009 years as well as being on the 2011-2012 British team.
The Golden Shears win was something he had been working towards for five or six years but unexpected this year because he finished fourth, he said. "It was actually a shock and a wee bit emotional."
Stratford took out the competition through the quality of his shear.
His shearing had been mentored by many people over the years, he said. The people who had helped him had actually got him there. "It's their reward too."
At home, Stratford has a wife, Lisa, and two children, Seb, 7, and Lexie, 2, and works for Grant Moore Shearing in Winton.
Stratford spends most weekends in January away from his family during competitions and was away a week before the Golden Shears.
Despite it being hard to leave his family behind, the support and understanding he received from his family was great, he said. "I've got an extremely great wife."
His win this year had not stifled his dream of winning the Golden Shears Open. However, he was still a few years away from winning, he said.
Stratford is still a while off retiring. He wants to continue competing for five years and shearing generally for five years after that. "If the body can handle it."
Shearing puts a lot of pressure on the body - individual ewes can weigh up to 80kg.
"Some people say shearing 300 sheep a day is like running a marathon," Stratford said.
The hardest part of competing was not the physical side, it was the psychological. Having the ability to compete without choking was difficult, he said.
The win at the Golden Shears this year gained him $1800, before tax, and a year's rental of a Hyundai Santa Fe courtesy of PGG Wrightsons.
"It's not about the money, it's just about being there," Stratford said.
The Southland Times