Wool Trade

Freeze branding loses ‘non-mulesed’ status on wool declaration

Terry Sim, July 19, 2021

AUSTRALIA’S wool exporters and brokers have supported a revised National Wool Declaration that does not define wool from sheep that have undergone the freeze-branded process as non-mulesed.

The Australian Wool Exchange yesterday released the results of its latest NWD review that listed new definitions for mob status encompassing the breech modification processes, surgical mulesing and sheep freeze branding.

Before the latest review, wool growers had been able to include wool from freeze branded sheep as non mulesed by ticking a ‘NM’ box.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors president Josh Lamb and National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia Rowan Woods both told Sheep Central they supported the NWD changes for the reasons of transparency to the market.

Mr Lamb said the exporters had not supported defining freeze branding as a non mulesed process.

WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said the WPA board hasn’t formally considered the final NWD. However, she said there are a few points of concern, including the retention of ceased mulesed.

“Whilst the Definitions/Supporting Explanations state that liquid nitrogen is non mulesed, it could have been stronger throughout the document.

“It is now up to growers to decide if they use the NWD or not.”

On the revised NWD the mob status definition options for growers now are:

NM: No sheep in this mob have been mulesed.

LA: Sheep in this mob have been treated with liquid nitrogen# with a registered analgesic product.

LN: Sheep in this mob have been treated with liquid nitrogen#, without a registered analgesic product used.

AA: Sheep in this mob have been mulesed with a registered analgesic &/or anaesthetic product used.

M: Sheep in this mob have been mulesed without a registered analgesic &/or anaesthetic product used.

The changes mean that wool growers will not be able to nominate the wool from freeze branded sheep as coming from ‘non-mulesed’ sheep.

In an AWEX Members’ Update today, AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave said the 2021 NWD review has been completed.

“The focus of the review was the identification of wool from sheep treated with liquid nitrogen.

“In addition, consideration has been given to the categories (Property and Mob Status) of the NWD, and how they relate to each other.

“This review was complex and the AWEX board appreciates the frank feedback received from the organisations and individuals who contributed to this review,” he said.

Mr Grave did not return a call requesting further comment on the review’s outcome.

He said the new NWD V9.0 template included the introduction of liquid nitrogen (freeze branding) as two categories:

o LA – use of liquid nitrogen using an APVMA approved Analgesic product, and

o LN – use of liquid nitrogen without the use of an Analgesic product.

He said the questions that related to Ceased Mulesing (CM) Status now have a 12-month timeframe.

Mr Grave said it is important that industry stakeholders developing documents or stationery must not change any of the wording or definitions in the NWD V9.0.

“This is to ensure consistency of the NWD and maximise the integrity of all Australian declarations, and to provide our customers with clarity on each NWD category enabling them to make informed purchasing decisions.

“In finalising the 2021 NWD review, the AWEX board is announcing that the next review will be

conducted within two years, and it will consider the potential of removing CM,” he said.

“This time-frame will allow stakeholders ample opportunity to consider the future of CM.”

Mr Grave said the NWD V9.0 will come into effect on 1 January 2022.

Click here to read more details on the NWD changes.


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  1. Jim Gordon, July 19, 2021

    At last, the truth, complete transparency. Who are the clever people or person who has got this through? Congratulation, another step forward to make it clearer for the trade to buy the wool they desire.

  2. Warren Godson, July 19, 2021

    Funny how freeze branding uses a pain relief that is three times the potency of the normal pain relief of the mules operation. The whole thing is a complete myth.

  3. Peter Small, July 19, 2021

    Sorry Josh Lamb, you may have achieved more transparency but at the cost of more confusion. Confusion always feeds into non-compliance which has always been a significant issue. Australia desperately needs to increase the supply of non-mulesed wool and mulesing by definition is the removal of the skin from the breech of a sheep with surgical shears.
    This decision seals the fate forever of a technological solution to mulesing. Yes, I am well aware there is a genetic solution which I have supported longer than most, but the fact remains the Australian wool industry does not have skills to move fast enough to fill the demand for non-mulesed wool. This must lead to further loss of market share for wool.
    Whilst growers of sheep that don’t need mulesing will be rubbing their hands in glee at their potential premiums, what they are in fact voting for is a product that has declining relevance. And beyond a certain point may it become irrelevant.

    • Josh Lamb, July 20, 2021

      Don’t be sorry Peter, it’s not your fault we’re 10 years behind other wool-producing countries. Regardless of who comments, don’t we all have the industry’s best interests in mind?

      Yes, the National Wool Declaration is confusing and it does propagate non-compliance by nature, but we had to choose between confusion and transparency in this instance, and that’s an easy choice. The current NWD completion rate is over 76 percent and climbing. Actually the definition of mulesing is one of the biggest problems, its outdated and out of touch. A clearer mulesing definition around breech modification, mandatory pain relief nationwide and suddenly the NWD is a very simple document.

      The focus should not be on non-mulesed premiums, but on transparency and animal welfare.

      • Peter Small, July 21, 2021

        Well put Josh, I hope my fellow growers take note.

      • Jim Gordon, July 20, 2021

        Josh Lamb, you are so right onwhere the focus should be, and it is exactly the same out in the paddock. The focus should be on breeding the right sheep. Sheep that don’t get fly-blown, are more fertile and grow quality wool. An additional benefit with these sheep is that they don’t need to be mulesed.

    • Martin Oppenheimer, July 20, 2021

      “This must lead to further loss of market share for wool.”

      Yes Peter and AWI has aided this market loss by not promoting non-mulesed wool production.
      This has included telling staff not to promote breech scores, stopping funding to Sheep Genetics and genomic research, funding ‘traditional’ breeder groups and not communicating current market demands to growers.

      • Peter Small, July 20, 2021

        Agree Martin. Surely we must be all asking ourselves, is a body such as AWI past its use by date?

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