National Geographic : 1972 Jan
bleating lambs toward the narrow opening in the chute. The drafters, or cullers, stood alongside the chute, gripping thick red chalk markers. As each lamb filed through, a man grabbed it quickly behind the kidneys, feeling for the proper amount of fat, then slashed red chalk across the backs of the chosen. At the end of the chute, lambs with red slashes were guided into one pen; those without went into another to fatten for a few more weeks. On our way back for lunch, Alister stopped the vehicle before the huge shed where the sheep are sheared. The floor was still littered 100 with the remnants of a recent shearing. "Once they've been clipped," said Alister, "the sheep come skidding down chutes into those pens. Each pen fills with the sheep that are sheared by one shearer, so we can tally each man's work for the day and pay him accordingly." "How many sheep can a good shearer clip in a day?" I asked. "The average is 200, but a really good man can shear up to 400 in a nine-hour day. We pay $14 a hundred-about $16 in your money -so a good man can make a good wage, even though the work is seasonal."