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The time is coming for Mongolians to use electric shears for shearing sheep and camels

The time has come for Mongolians to use electric shears for shearing sheep and camels. Soon we will be able to proclaim this with pride. Khanbogd native and Oyu Tolgoi driver Khash-Erdene Bayanmunkh and Community Relations Officer Bold Pandiisamba recently spent two weeks in Australia. During their visit they learned to use electric shears, practising on sheep and returning full of knowledge. They learned their skills at a training centre before gaining practical experience at a sheep farm in Hamilton.

B.Khash-Erdene was awarded a certificate in sheep shearing and P.Bold a certificate in shearing camel wool. They are the first Mongolians to receive these qualifications.

Last spring, Australian sheep shearing teacher Roger Mifsud visited Mongolia and spent almost a month in Khanbogd, Bayan-Ovoo and Manlai soums of Umnugovi aimag. He showed herders how to use electric shears for shearing camels. Back in Australia, Roger is an award winning sheep shearer.

To sheer a camel, it is made to lie down with its limbs outstretched. In Australia, alpacas are sheared using the same method. Initially herders were unconvinced about this method but Roger was able to explain the benefits of the method in reducing discomfort for the animals. Electric shears are extremely effective, saving a lot of time. A task which requires a full hour with hand-operated shears takes just 20 minutes using electric shears. It used to take almost a month for a herder to shear their herd. Using electric shears this huge task can be accomplished in just four or five days. The method also leads to a lot less wasted wool.

B.Khash-Erdene first came up with the idea of using electric shears for shearing camels while he was travelling with Community Relations Advisor, Bruce Harvey. They talked about how difficult it was to shear camels manually and decided to try electric shears instead. Bruce brought electric shears from Australia to allow B.Khash-Erdene to try them out. While the shears were initially useful, the herders encountered many challenges relating to their use and maintenance. Bruce contacted an Australian sheep shearing school and suggested that an expert visit Mongolia to provide training. Roger was the perfect candidate thanks to his experience in shearing alpacas, a lama common to Australia. On arrival, Roger and B.Khash-Erdene worked hard to get the shears working properly.

Camel wool contains a lot of dirt, sand, grass, wood, and other waste which breaks the combs of the electric shears quickly. To solve this problem Roger brought a comb grinder from Australia. Roger and B.Khash-Erdene then toured Khanbogd soum showing herders how to use the shears on their camels. This news spread throughout the area with herders from neighbouring soums visiting Khanbogd to see this wonderful instrument in action.

After the success of Roger's visit, our two employees went to Australia to improve their skills and knowledge. Focusing on sheep shearing, they studied theory and practiced at the farm. They learned how to hold the sheep, how to make them lie down and stop them from kicking and how to begin the shearing process. B.Khash-Erdene says, "You can't say that Mongolian sheep are fierce and Australian sheep are calm. However, Australian sheep have much thicker wool. Their skin is loose and wrinkled, while Mongolian sheep have loose wool and tough skin. We learned how to operate the shears safely and how to grind the combs. Sheep shearing is not an easy task. You have to bend over for the entire process which makes your back ache."

P.Bold added, "We went to work at 06:30am and returned at 5:00pm. The work load was huge. We accomplished our goal, returning home with a new profession. The wool sorting process in Australia is very well developed. They sort the wool based on many different criteria including length, strength, flexibility, colour and appearance. The wool from the cheekbones, legs and abdomen has a relatively low value, while the body wool gets a much higher price. The wool is collected and pressed in sacks weighing between 80 and 200 kg. The wool sack is marked with its farm and quality. The sorting employee's name is stamped on the sack so they can be contacted by the customer if they have any queries."

Oyu Tolgoi Community Relations Officer, B.Amar says, "90 per cent of the training was practical so it was very effective. We trained alongside a dozen young Australians. There was even a person from France. Even over a short period, the training was very useful. Our two employees learned a lot and now have valuable experience to share with others. Mongolians now know the techniques to use electric shears properly and, for the first time, have certificates from a prestigious Australian training centre. The herders intend to continue this work and will report back next year. This is going to help improve livelihoods and improve relations between Mongolia and Australia. The Australian government attached great importance to the success of this project and helped us in every way they could.".

About Oyu Tolgoi LLC (www.ot.mn)

Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Mongolia's largest copper and gold mining company, is a strategic partnership between the Government of Mongolia, Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto. Located in the South Gobi, Oyu Tolgoi commenced shipment of product to customers in July 2013. Oyu Tolgoi is managed by Rio Tinto, which is investing global expertise and cutting-edge technology to help develop Mongolia’s mining industry and ensure Oyu Tolgoi is one of the world’s most advanced mines. For Oyu Tolgoi, nothing matters more than safety. The business operates under the principle that if a job cannot be done safely, it will not be done at all.

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