Wool Processing

AWEX clarifies breech treatments on wool declaration

Sheep Central, November 15, 2021

AWEX CEO Mark Grave

NATIONAL Wool Declaration definitions for wool from non-mulesed and ceased mulesed flocks, and sheep treated with liquid nitrogen, have been clarified by the Australian Wool Exchange.

AWEX has announced an update to the NWD V9.1 version, that supersedes Version 9.0 announced in July 2021 and will be effective from 19 April 2022 (Easter Recess).

AWEX said key changes include:

  1. The definition of NM has been made clearer as follows: “No sheep in the mob has been mulesed or treated with liquid nitrogen”.
  2. The new Liquid Nitrogen Codes (LN and LA) announced in Version 9.0 will be one Code only (LN).
  3. The two Property level questions used to determine Ceased Mulesing (CM) status will be removed. CM will be a valid status, but only for wool declared and received prior to 19 April 2022.

AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave, said AWEX had received representation from industry raising concerns about the increasing complexity (definitions, logic combinations) and practical implications arising from the changes made in V9.0.

“All parties supported the objective of keeping the NWD as simple as possible to encourage completion on farm and minimise errors, and to reduce combination complexity post farm.

“Using one code for Liquid Nitrogen (freeze-branding) treatments and removing property level (CM) questions meet this objective,” he said.

“CM was originally implemented in NWD Version 1.0 as an interim NWD Code, to assist growers transitioning to a NM flock.

“The AWEX board believes the time is right to apply a sunset clause to CM status,” Mr Grave said.

“The board noted that property level husbandry practices will continue to be an important feature of integrity schemes and that market participants seeking to source wool from properties with specific husbandry practices should examine the conditions of these schemes.

“The V9.1 changes will simplify the NWD, supporting greater uptake, and increase transparency and accuracy.”

The implementation and communication strategy for NWD Version 9.1 will be:

The NWD V9.1 version will be released to industry stakeholders in November/December 2021, along with the business rules (translation and combination rules), templates and brochures. FAQ documentation will be updated and published on www.awex.com.au  From January 2022, the communications and extension campaign will continue until 19 April 2022 when NWD V9.1 becomes effective.

Click here to see how the new NWD will look like.


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  1. John Buxton, November 18, 2021

    Be very careful what you wish for with this debate. Giving in to the animal rights lobby will never satisfy them. They will be back demanding more as soon as you give in to a demand.
    What you need to understand is that their real objective is to see the end to commercial livestock production. Arguing among ourselves about what is right or wrong only plays into their hands.
    One logging coupe at a time they have destroyed the native timber industry in eastern Victoria and one animal health treatment at a time they will get rid of us also.

    • Donald Cameron, November 18, 2021

      Well said John Buxton. This is a black and white issue.
      Attempting to find grey areas is purely muddying the waters.

      Critically, the size and strength of the threat posed by PETA et al appears woefully under-appreciated by most commentators on this site.

  2. Martin Oppenheimer, November 17, 2021

    Thank you AWEX & all involved. Just call it what it is, simple.

  3. Peter Small, November 16, 2021

    The ineptness of AWI on this whole animal welfare issue has created a vacuum that is now filled by rent seekers and our industry has lost control of the agenda.
    The industry should ask itself what would have been the situation if back in the 1960s, the industry had turned its back on objective Measurement and stuck with visual appraisal? The vacuum would have been filled by some laboratory in the Northern Hemisphere that would now be dictating standards and extracting rent-seeking charges from our growers.
    This will now become the norm with animal ethics.
    Our industry in Australia is now run by oligarchs. Good policy driven by good practice and grassroot grower involvement is stamped on by everyone from the Minister for Agriculture down.
    Sheep Central is almost the only opportunity for grassroot discussion on industry matters. Certainly our state farmer organizations are nowhere to be found.

  4. Andrew Farran, November 16, 2021

    This is no clarification. It is further obfuscation designed to confuse and defeat the successful introduction and application of the only serious available alternative to mulesing, which is freeze branding ie. the use of liquid nitrogen; as many GPs do when treating rudimentary skin conditions in humans.

    To require freeze branding, or LN in the NWD, to be lumped together with mulesing as a common category (in NM) is a travesty of language and intended to kill off freeze branding for starters. It implies that LN is a form or variant of mulesing which it clearly is not (see definition of mulesing below*). Freeze branding does not involve a surgical procedure (cutting) or the shedding of blood, as does mulesing.

    Apparently the ‘offence’ of LN is some degree of breech modification notwithstanding that I believe it is virtually painless and best practice requires some pain relief nonetheless. What inherently is the objection to that? Is not tail docking or ring binding of a male sheep’s testicles a form of sheep modification? But that’s OK of course, even if painful. Where is the sense in what is proposed? If the NWD requires that LN should be noted, well and good. NMLN would do fine. The objection apparently is that even in the age of the computerised algorithm and blockchain the AWEX system couldn’t handle an addition two letters. Is this where a technological deficiency is allowed to impede a natural and sensible development?
    So who’s vested interest is being protected in this matter and why?
    Is this another case of wool industry fragmentation that serves no common purpose? AWEX should do better than that.

    * Mulesing is “the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears”.

    • Jim Gordon, November 17, 2021

      Andrew Farran: I quote you “ Mulesing is the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears.”
      Freeze mulesing or freeze branding as you like to call it “is the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using (liquid) nitrogen.” The pain is about the same in both operations.
      To the retailer trying to sell woollen apparel, they would like non-mulesed wool identified from wool from sheep that have been mulesed or had liquid nitrogen applied, on the National Wool Declaration.
      The welfare groups see freeze branding and mulesing as the same welfare issue. The genetic solution is one solution worth considering.

      • Andrew Farran, November 17, 2021

        Jim, what is your evidence for what you assert – empirical or otherwise?
        Have you witnessed a mob of sheep being treated with freeze branding (liquid nitrogen) and honestly what did you see? Nothing like mulesing I would believe, based on my own extensive observations. A retailer would accept freeze branding in an instant. No PETA blood spattered images there.

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