A growing influx of overseas shearers and woolclassers is giving confidence for local shearing contractors, despite fluctuating peak seasons over recent years.
For Ballarat-based Marwood Shearing director Bill Woodgate, said shearers were still "quite busy" in recent months despite a growth in the workforce, but it didn't compare to the major issues with shearer shortages throughout COVID.
"The last couple of years were pretty full on and the lack of shearers that'd usually come over from New Zealand really did put a lot of pressure on the Aussie guys," he said.
"But this past season has been quite steady for us as a business."
Mr Woodgate said staff would be travelling as far as Hay, NSW, but major rainfall in December did put a halt to some jobs.
"Things slowed down a little bit for shearers with the delay in harvest, which affected not only farmers, but for everyone over 4-5 weeks, but in saying that it's good thing that some farmers are able to get their summer crops away," he said.
But attracting local staff still posed a challenge.
Mr Woodgate said "about 70 per cent" of his staff were currently from New Zealand, but he was always actively looking for locals.
"I talk to shearing instructors quite a bit and I reckon three out of 10 trainees actually persevere with getting into the sector," he said.
"A lot of people just don't end up having a go in the industry. It is hard yakka and it's not going to be for everyone, but I don't really know what the answer is to get younger ones into shearing.
"I just think more training, using social media and that sort of thing can attract them hopefully."
Ballan shearer and woolclasser Sophie Bradshaw said while the start of the year had been quiet, there were currently many opportunities for regular work.
"I've been able to find some private jobs during quieter times like winter in other areas if Bill hasn't got much on, but I have been always finding something to do," she said.
"I'm always travelling with good people in the sector who work hard and I love it."
Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said there was a big turnaround in demand for shearers in the second half of 2023 and the industry was working hard to give local shearers continued work.
He said the sector was buoyed by shearers getting "20 per cent more pay than they were in 2019" with no-one undercutting in the industry at the moment.
"It's keeping people interested in the industry, but there are still some anomalies," he said.
"Some people are not bothering to work the whole week and trying to get them to tough jobs, whether that is geographically tough, or bad sheep jobs, is a challenge" he said.
"Obviously for an employer that's not great, but it is certainly nothing like 2020 and 2021 and we've certainly done a great job in attracting new entrants."
Mr Letchford said a shift in having more than one peak season for shearing could attract those looking for continuous work.
"In the last couple of years, based on wool testing data, autumn has actually been busier than spring which surprised everyone," he said.
"But we do need to prepare ourselves as an industry knowing that we've got these two peaks now."
He said a fall in sheep-meat prices late last year did take away a significant amount of demand for shearers out of the traditionally peak season of spring, but the balance was right as this year's autumn season approaches.
A recent sheep price upswing will likely result in no excess of shearers in the coming months, according to Mr Letchford.