An Upper Hunter shearing contractor says a skills shortage that is plaguing the region is also taking its toll on the wool industry.
After some delays due to weather, shearing is getting underway in many parts of the state, including the Hunter and Liverpool Plains.
Wool growers are coming to grips with a downturn in their industry, with the national flock currently sitting at about 70 million, the lowest it has been for more than a hundred years.
Murrurundi shearing contractor Brian Hunt says there is also a problem with labour.
"It's very limited," he said.
"Particularly when you live and operate in an area now, 30 to 40 minutes drive to the north to coal mines and an hour to the south.
"I just don't know a year or two down the track, with a big explosion to the north, where it might finish."
The labour shortage covers all roles involved in the the wool production process, including shearers, shed staff and wool classers.
Mr Hunt says it has contributed to a cautious mood among producers this year.
"They haven't got near the optimism they had this time last year."