AUSTRALIA’S largest independent wool broker, AWN, has handed full control of the business promoting the mulesing alternative, sheep freeze branding, back to its developor John Steinfort.
In 2019, AWN with Dr Steinfort, formed a joint venture – AgVet Innovations — to fund and accelerate the commercialisation of sheep freeze branding process, which the veterinarian had been developing for more than ten years.
AWN said sheep freeze branding is a patented technology that provides an ethical and cost-effective single application solution for the promotion of sheep breech health for life. The company said the process has gained interest in recent years as a welfare-considerate approach to improving sheep breech health whilst advancements in sheep genetics continue to be made.
AWN chief operating officer, Rick Maybury, said the time was right to hand the control of the business back to Dr Steinfort.
“We are incredibly proud to have been part of the commercialisation of sheep freeze branding over the past two years.
“Our journey with sheep freeze branding started with a vision to help commercialise Dr Steinfort’s invention to benefit growers looking to move away from mulesing, and we are pleased to have achieved this,” he said.
“Now that the business has been capitalised and the process has successfully commenced commercialisation, it is the right time to hand control to Dr Steinfort to continue to drive innovation in this area.
“There is no doubt that there is increasing pressure from consumers, brands and the supply chain to move away from mulesing, and sheep freeze branding offers a transitional pathway for wool growers looking to make that transition whilst genetic improvements continue to be made.”
Process is better off separate from any broker – Colley
AWN managing director John Colley said the process of sheep freeze branding “is better held in a private entity not allied to any one particular broker, where politics can sometimes interfere with the business model.”
He said the decision was also not in reaction to recent industry questions about Mr Colley’s position as an AWEX board member while the company conducted its latest review of the National Wool Declaration, which currently classifies sheep freeze branding as a ‘non-mulesed’ process.
“Absolutely not, these sort of decisions are made over a long period of time and the discussions started at the board of AVI a long time before the latest NWD was announced (this month).
“The decision was made long before, and it has nothing t do with this review.”
Joint venture was crucial to process commercialisation
AgVet Innovations director Dr Steinfort said having the financial backing of another business was a crucial element in getting sheep freeze branding to where it is today.
“I am very grateful to AWN for their support over the past couple of years in helping sheep freeze branding to reach the early stages of commercialisation,” he said.
“Without the backing and support of a business such as AWN, sheep freeze branding would not have been able to operate on the scale and with the efficiency that it does today.
“I am looking forward to continuing to expand sheep freeze branding services across the country.”
AWN said a University of Melbourne trial of sheep freeze branding was conducted in late 2020, with the official report expected to be released later this year.