The Italian Almanac

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Maori

Italian News - April 29

Spring is in full swing and the Maori back in Italy for a season of shearing sheep. The native New Zealanders are considered the best shearers in the world. This is not surprising considering that the Pacific island nation boasts a ratio of 15 sheep for every resident.

For almost 20 years, the Maori have been coming to Italy in March and working their way up the peninsula, following the warming weather trend. They stay until mid-June, when it's time to head up to Britain, where the shearing season is just beginning. The tattooed South Pacific natives are currently at work in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, where teams of two or three Maori are shearing up to 700 sheep a day.

"They have developed an ideal shearing technique which is perfect for us breeders as well as the sheep," observed Nunzio Marcelli, chairman of the national sheep and goat raising association Arpo. "They can shear a sheep in just one minute 20 seconds and because of the speed the operation is much less traumatic for the animal."

A Maori shearer makes between 150 and 200 Euro a day in Italy. "After 15 years of doing this they usually have enough to settle down back home and start up their own farms," Marcelli said. The Maori currently in Italy are for the most part all professional shearers between the ages of 20 and 35. However, there are also some younger shearers who are moonlighting to cover their university fees.

Over the years the Maori have developed a close relationship with the local populations where they work and in Anversa degli Abruzzi they actively take part in the traditional 'Shearing festival' offered by breeders. After Abruzzo, the Maori move on to the Po Delta region before they head for their last stop in the province of Belluno, in the eastern Italian Alps.