Robin Rogers is happiest when he’s up to his neck in sheep poo.

Woolgrowers are very happy to see him there, not out of spite but necessity.

Mr Rogers is a woolshed cleaner. Not inside the shed where the action usually happens.

But under it, where at shearing time the dung falls through the grated floor of the holding pens, accumulating slowly over the years.

It means he often has to tackle decades’ worth of the stuff.

“Some farmers can clean it out themselves but most farmers are either too busy or put it in the too-hard basket, so they contact the likes of me,” Mr Rogers said.

For this odd occupation, which must rank as one of the world’s dirtiest jobs, he uses a special bobcat fitted with a telescopic scoop.

It can slide up to 40 metres under a shed and scrape out the dung from between the footings, up to 20 tonnes in an average day.

The bigger the woolshed, the greater the volume and sometimes it’s packed to the floorboards.

“When they’re full it’s like driving into a wall of sheep manure,” Mr Rogers said.

“It’s nothing for me to to drag out 100 tonnes, in some sheds.”

Cecilia and Robin Rogers and 14-year-old grandson Archie, take a break after a long, hot, dusty day of work. (ABC Landline: Tim Lee)

‘They find it hard to get the lumpy stuff out’

Some contractors utilise a giant industrial vacuum to remove these prodigious pellet piles.

“The vacuum cleaner is all right but they find it hard to get the lumpy stuff out, like the stuff that’s gone hard,” Mr Rogers said.

“They can’t get that out and if it’s wet it just blocks their tubes.”

But even his special bobcat machine can only do so much.

To remove the heavily encrusted dung from tight corners, Mr Rogers gets down on his hands and knees.

Clawing away with tools, a bit like a horizontal chimney sweep, he breaks it up and rakes it out — sometimes with the help of grandson Archie.

It’s hard physical work, confronting dust, heat and confined spaces. And it sometimes upsets reptilian residents.

“You come across the odd snake under a shearing shed when you’re under there, so that’s a bit of a challenge. You’ve just got to respect them,” he said. 

It’s all in a day’s work for the 71-year-old.

“You’ve got the elements. You’ve got either stinking hot weather or you’ve got cold, wet and windy. You’ve got to put up with that,” he said. 

A love for the unusual

He worked in woolsheds from age 15, then was a shearer for 37 years, which gave him a first-hand look at the problem of dung build-up, as well as a ready-made clientele of woolgrowers.

And, he jokes, an addiction to the smell of woolsheds.

Eighteen years later he’s still in demand, leading a gypsy-like life throughout the sheep districts of much of Victoria and eastern South Australia.

Robin and Cecilia Rogers lead a gypsy-like lifestyle travelling the sheep districts. (ABC Landline: Tim Lee)

He stays on site in a camper, complete with a very essential shower and the minor luxury of a satellite dish.

Robin’s wife Cecilia often comes along for a few days of a contract to assist, but admits being under the floor can feel horribly claustrophobic.

Nowadays, she draws the line at crawling under sheds.

“I just feel like I can’t breathe. I can do outside [work] but not under the shed. That’s Robin’s job now,” laughed Mrs Rogers.

“He knows what he’s doing and he loves the job. It’s a good business but it’s hard work.”

Mr Rogers used to venture into New South Wales, but that beat is now kept clean by his step-daughter Casey and her partner Jonno.

“You’ve got to be prepared to work. If it was an easy and glamorous job there’d be a lot of people doing it,” Mr Rogers added.

Usually, when word gets around that he’s in a district, the job offers pour in and he stays longer than intended.

“But I don’t mind it because I like the outdoors, getting around different places and I treat it like a working holiday,” he said.

“If you were touring around Australia you wouldn’t see some of the country that I see and meet some good people.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction in a job well done.”

What mostly happens to the piles of poo?

Sheep manure is a wonderfully rich fertiliser.

Some farmers never touch it, while others make good use of it on their gardens or sell it.

“The stuff I drag out has been there probably 30 years so that’s composted. The top bit’s pebbly, you can’t separate it,” he said. 

“It’s that good you could plant a four-inch nail and grow a crowbar.”

Stories from farms and country towns across Australia, delivered each Friday.