“THERE’S still quite a lot of sheep left in the world and they need shearing,” said commentator Roger Charnley, as the next round of competitors battled it out on stage.

The Northumberland County Show tent was packed with family and friends as the junior, intermediate and senior championships rolled.

Meanwhile, Mark Johnson, the Master of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, which sponsored the overall competition, spoke about the importance of maintaining the profile of wool and the methods of production.

“This is a natural, healthy product and shearing is an important art we don’t want to lose,” he said.

“The biennial World Sheep Shearing Championships are taking place in Limoges this year and most members of the England team are here today.

“Many of them will have won one of our prizes at some stage.”

Keen to support shearers on the ground and to ‘bring on’ the next generation, the company made a point of channelling its sponsorship money into their pockets.

There was another boon, too, in that the kudos of having one of the Woolmen’s prizes on their CV tended to usher shearers into the best jobs, “and that’s certainly true when they go Down Under,” Mark added.

Another of the commentators, John Fyall, is the immediate past chairman of NSA Scotland. “We’re trying to put together a set of shearing standards,” he said.

“We are quite lucky in the UK in that we have very good quality shearers coming through, so it’s about making sure farmers are setting up their sheep in the right conditions and making sure they maintain the sheep shearing training.”

In their running commentaries, Roger and John each stressed it wasn’t necessarily the first past the post who’d won the day. Speed isn’t everything.

Yes, OK, ‘every 20 seconds is a point lost’, but what the judges are really looking for is the person who’s done the cleanest job.

The junior champion on the day, 18-year-old Stanley Hibbert, from Chorley in Lancashire, said: “Usually the first time through isn’t enough and you need to go back for stray bits of wool.”

However, the judges were looking for the quickest, cleanest shear without, importantly, any or many nicks on the sheep’s skin.

“You don’t really know until the end how you’ve done,” said Stanley.