01/16/2012 11:21 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Farmers group sees sheep shearing as Olympic demonstration sport

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A New Zealand farming lobby group says sheep shearing has the potential to become an Olympic demonstration sport and the "time has come to elevate shearing's sporting status to the ultimate world stage."

New Zealand produces some of the world's best shearers and its national championship, the Golden Shears, receives substantial local media coverage.

New Zealand Federated Farmers said the world's top shearers were "athletes who take it to another level."

New Zealand will host the world shearing championships in March and Federated Farmers Meat and Fiber chairwoman Jeannette Maxwell said it was an appropriate time for the sport to press for wider international recognition.

Maxwell said men's and women's world record-holders Ivan Scott of Ireland and Kerri-Jo Te Huia of New Zealand showed the athleticism necessary to reach the top of world shearing.

"Ivan regained his world eight-hour solo lamb title by shearing 749 lambs, seven more than the previous world record," she said.

"Kerri-Jo smashed the women's eight-hour solo lamb shearing world record by shearing 507 lambs, 37 more than the previous record."

Maxwell said New Zealand's government sports funding agency Sparc recognized shearing as a sport and Australia had previously pressed for its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games.

"In 2008 it was mooted by Sports Shear Australia but, surely, the time has come to elevate shearing's sporting status to the ultimate world stage," she said.

"One way would be to make shearing a demonstration sport at a Commonwealth Games, if not, the Olympics itself."