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TAS Country : November 25th 2010
mber 26, 2010 17 ent day too far away HARD LIFE: Hamilton sheep breeder George Sonners, 73, is not afraid of hard work and is still going strong at an age when many men have long retired. Pictures: RAOUL KOCHANOWSKI There was once 180 butchers and now there's only a handful left, and they're good, old, faithful ones too, they are. There's no young ones, the same with shearing.' GOLFER: Nona Sonners. dryland, I rely on a good rain. I have some irrigation but I run stock on that.'' His wife, Nona, is ranked highly in amateur golfing in Tasmania and plays throughout the state and on the mainland. She recently rose through 180 golfers to make it to the semi-finals of an amateur golfing championship in Melbourne. ''She goes well,'' George said. The Hamilton farmer rose early and crutched 110 lambs the day Tasmanian Country visited, cleaning them up for shearing His son gave him a hand, but George crutched 300 on his own a fortnight ago. ''Only one set of hands about here most times,'' he said. George said sheep farming has changed a great deal over the years and was still changing. ''Things are getting harder,'' he said. ''And it's dominated by the supermarkets. There was once 180 butchers and now there's only a handful left, and they're good, old, faithful ones too, they are. ''There's no young ones, the same with shearing, there's guys in their 50s say to me 'what are the younger ones going to do for shearers?' ''No one's taking it on, it's too hard a work for them, no one wants to work these days.'' George and Nona have four children and six grandchildren. The youngest son is interested in the farm and a daughter is a wool classer working on the East Coast. ''It's a man's job really,'' George said. ''There are a lot of girls doing it now but there didn't use to be. ''You couldn't camp a girl around with a heap of men.'' George harvests his own grain, which includes triticale, oats and rape. ''I put in 40ha of oats and didn't get any rain till August so I rooted that out and put in rape for my lambs,'' George said. ''Instead of getting rid of most of my lambs off their mothers this year I'm shearing them, crutching the dags and put them on the rape. I will get rid of them in the autumn time.'' George carts his sheep straight to the Longford abattoir. ''By the time you go to Bridgewater you're halfway to Longford, plus you save yourself $7 a head,'' he said. ''That doesn't sound much, but if you've got 1000 lambs you can't get $7000 any easier than that.'' As a young footballer George played a game at Hamilton when hegotakicktohis head and blood was streaming down his face. He recalled his coach driving at high speed along the straight to Ouse Hospital, where the matron inserted nine stitches and he got back in time to play the final quarter. ''You're only as old as you feel,'' George said. The straight-shooting farmer believes Tasmania has lost much of its rural identity. He said farmers had been forced to amalgamate to survive, farm workers had lost their jobs, some were too old, and some were forced to relocate to the cities. ''When we were dealt some misfortune we were one big rural family,'' George said. ''We would work together to rebuild fences and farm sheds, manage the stock and get back on track. ''The big bus I went to school on is only the size of a camper van now. ''The rural identity and rural people are all gone.''
November 18th 2010
December 2nd 2010