A 50-year career with an ‘average of 120’ would be considered amazing stats in any sport or profession. But when it comes to something as taxing on the human body as shearing, it’s almost unbelievable.
Kelvin Madden started shearing sheep at age 16. Now 65, he’s going to retire ‘fit’ after bringing up his half century, having shorn tens of thousands of rams, ewes and wethers on farms and stations across the east coast of Australia.
He concludes his career much like the wool industry is right now – in peak form.
Doug Baker, 53, a shearing contractor who has worked with Mr Madden since 2005, described him as a “bloody iron horse”.
“He is incredibly fit. He still gets through 120 sheep a day,” Mr Baker said.
“I’ve worked with him for 12 years and in that time can only recall one day he called in sick.”
Mr Madden lives in Young, and his currently winding up his farewell shearing gig in a small farm near Tallimba, a town in Western NSW just north of Wagga. He’s been shearing at Tallimba for much of the past decade.
He would like to continue shearing, but is moving to Upper Horton this year, which is a small agricultural town in Northern NSW. The relocation is mostly because his wife wants to be closer to family.
“You got to go where the women in the family tell you to go,” Mr Madden said, sporting his trademark grin.
Mr Madden could probably be described as a rurosexual – despite his tough job and rough exterior, he’s not afraid to show a sensitive side.
Meg Hardie, who owns the Tallimba farm where Mr Madden is working said, “he has a love for irises and a great eye for floral beauty. It's such an awesome contradiction with what he does for his living. We’re going to miss him”.
The fact that he’s lasted so long is remarkable when you consider shearing is a job characterised by high turnover. It is estimated around 20 per cent of shearers quit the occupation each year.
“This year has been one of my busiest ever,” Mr Madden said.
Not surprising, as record wool prices have encouraged strong production growth.
Perhaps it’s best to go out on a high.
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