Lamb Production

Australian superfine wool growers asked to support ‘cease mulesing’ policy

Terry Sim, July 24, 2017

ASWGA member Noel Henderson at the recent Australian Sheep and Wool Show.

AUSTRALIA’S superfine wool growers are being asked to consider supporting a ‘cease mulesing’ policy.

Seven years after the passing of the industry’s ill-fated 2010 mulesing ban deadline, Sheep Central has been told the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association executive is canvassing membership support for a ‘cease mulesing’ clause in an animal welfare policy.

ASWGA president Simon Cameron would not comment on the proposal this week, but brought it to the annual general meeting of the ASWGA’s Hamilton branch meeting on July 12 and it is to be discussed at the ASWGA annual meeting next month.

Sheep Central was told that the proposal was only supported at the Hamilton meeting by the branch’s outgoing president David Rowbottom.

“The proposal is that the ASWGA adopt a policy that advocates the cessation of mulesing,” he said.

“The (ASWGA) executive is asking members for their support to put a clause in recommending that members do not mules their sheep.

“At the moment it is being bandied around for discussion, but as it stands the executive is certainly in support of it going in,” Mr Rowbottom said.

“If they can get the majority of members from all the other branches supporting it, I think it will go through regardless of what Hamilton thinks.

“I asked for a show of hands of those who were in favour of the proposal and got none, except me,” Mr Rowbottom said.

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You’ve got to listen to the market – Henderson

Sidonia superfine wool producer Noel Henderson said the ASWGA executive has agreed to put a proposal to all members recommending that they cease mulesing.

“At the moment, about 50 percent of the membership have either never mulesed or who have ceased – and this is a discussion with the other 50pc about what the market forces are saying.

“And we are saying that of the type of wool that the superfine wool growers produce, it is relatively easy to source that wool elsewhere if were are not careful and that could come out of New Zealand South Africa, and possibly out of South America and it can also be blended with cashmere.

“This means if we don’t agree to the proposal and we can’t convince our European customers, they are going to go elsewhere, there is nothing surer.”

Mr Henderson’s Avington Merino flock was the first Australian grower to be accredited under the Responsible Wool Standard, which precludes wool from mulesed sheep, except from a flock which has ceased mulesing.

Mr Henderson said Australian superfine wool growers could not have a point of difference to other sources unless they agreed to stop mulesing.

“It’s a risk to everybody and the wake-up call has been the MLA statement on how mulesing now is likely to impact on the sale of sheep meat.

“That would be a disaster for the whole Australian market at a time when only wool is at a premium (price), but so is sheep meat,” he said.

“That’s what the market is saying and you’ve got to listen to the market; that’s the key message that a lot of people are missing.”

Mr Henderson said the retail buyers are driving the Responsible Wool Standard, which precludes wool from mulesed sheep.

“It’s the retail buyers that want it, so they are telling the mills, this is what you’ve got to source, and they are going back to the growers and the growers aren’t listening at the moment.”

Proud 2017 Zegna award winners Susan and David Rowbottom.

Pain relief is encouraging growers to mules sheep – Rowbottom

David and Susan Rowbottom’s Rowensville Ultrafine Merino flock has not been mulesed since 1979 and he believed ASWGA members should agree to stop mulesing.

“They should agree and the mills are being forced to accept wool from sheep who have been mulesed with pain relief.

“I think they are being forced into that because they can’t get enough wool otherwise.”

“There has been a bit of publicity recently that the consumer perception is against mulesing full-stop and they don’t want mulesing with pain relief,” he said.

“Personally I believe that mulesing with pain relief is encouraging people to mules their sheep.”

Mr Rowbottom confirmed that at this stage ASWGA members were only discussing the proposal, but he believed the executive is in favour of it.

“The executive is dominated by people who don’t mules.”



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