A young sheep farmer from Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone, has been announced as the winner of the Ulster Wool new Training and Development Programme.

17-year-old Matthew Hall 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 British and Ulster Wool Shearing Training and Development Programme was launched earlier this year offering one winner from each UK nation 12 months of training, as well as a Lister Shearing prize package worth £500.

The 12-month programme will include a machine shearing course, followed by a gear course, a wool handling course and a second machine shearing course. Matthew will have the opportunity to get advice from experienced shearing instructors and will also have, depending on availability and shearing ability, the opportunity to gain on-farm experience working with a shearing contractor.

The four UK winners will also get to 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.

'An opportunity to improve my technique and learn new skills'

Commenting on his win, 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 were 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.

“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.”

Ulster Wool shearing manager Richard Schofield said: “On behalf of Ulster Wool, I congratulate Matthew on his achievement in winning this competition in Northern Ireland.

"The standard of entries was 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.”